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HTS Theological Studies

On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422

Herv. teol. stud. vol.75 n.4 Pretoria  2019 

Gide, A., 1946, Journal (1939-1942), Les Editions Gallimard, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Gide, A., 1948, Journal (1889-1939), Les Editions Gallimard, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Hackel, S., 1965, One, of Great Prince, Darton Longman & Todd, London, EN.         [ Links ]

Huisman, D., 2001, Dicţionar de opere majore ale filosofiei [Dictionary of major works of philosophy], Encyclopaedic Publishing House, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Ibsen, H., 1893, Solness le constructeur: drame en troisactes, Les Editions de Nouvelle Librairie Parisienne, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Ivlampie, I., 2001, Nikolai Berdiaev şi spiritualismul rus [Nicolae Berdiaev and the Russian spiritualism], Dominus Press, Galaţi, RO.         [ Links ]

Louth, A., 2015, Modern orthodox thinkers. From the Philokalia to the present, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, EN.         [ Links ]

Lubas-Bartoszyńska, R., 2010, Autobiografie filozofów [Autobiographies of philosophers], Adam Mickiewicz University Press, Poznań, PL.         [ Links ]

Marange, C., 2009, 'Presentation', in N. Berdiaev (ed.), Pour un chrianisme de creation et de liberte, pp. 9-34, Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Matzneff, G., 2017, Maria Skobţova - Sfântă ortodoxă victimă a nazismului [Maria Skobtova - Orthodox Saint, victim of Nazism], Renaşterea Publishing House, Cluj-Napoca, RO.         [ Links ]

Morariu, I.M., 2017, 'Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiographies of the Orthodox space? New potential keys of lecture', Astra Salvensis 5(10), 129-133.         [ Links ]

Morariu, I.M., 2018d, 'An interdisciplinary genre in the theological literature: The spiritual autobiography and its landmarks for the Orthodox space', Journal of Education, Culture and Society 8(1), 145-150.        [ Links ]

Morariu, I.M., 2018a, 'Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiography of Dag Hammarskjöld', HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 74(4), a4857, 1-5.        [ Links ]

Morariu, I.M., 2018b, 'Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiography of Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908)', HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 74(4), a4993, 1-5.        [ Links ]

Morariu, I.M., 2018c, 'Sfânta Maria Skobtova într-o nouă lumină [Saint Maria Skbotova in a new light]', Tabor 9(5), 79-81.         [ Links ]

Morariu, I.-M., 2018e, 'Theological ideas of Nichifor Crainic and their relevance for his political activity', Postmodern Openings 9(4), 54-64.        [ Links ]

Pezzimenti, P., 2013, Il pensiero politico del XX secolo [The political taught of the 20th century], Rubbetino Editore, Soveria Mannelli, IT.         [ Links ]

Rousseau, J.J., 1969, Confesiuni [Confessions], vol. 1-2, State Press for Literature and Art, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Skobtova, M., 1995, Le Sacrement du frere, Le sel de la terre, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Skobtova, M., 2008, Viaţa şi învăţăturile Maicii Maria Skobţova (1891-1945) - iubirea nebună de aproapele [The life and teachings of Mother Maria Skobtova (1891-1945) - Crazy love for the neighbour], 2nd edn., Deisis Press, Sibiu, RO.         [ Links ]

Smith, T.S., 1965, Mere Marie, nonne et rebelle, Presses de la Cite, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Tolstoy, L., 1904, Desmeticiţi-vă [Wake up], Press of Universal Office Ath. I. Niţeanu, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Tolstoy, L., 1907, Correspondance inédite, Les editions du Bibliothèque-Charpentier, Paris, FR.         [ Links ]

Tolstoy, L., 2008, Memorii [Memories], vol. 1-2, Adevărul Holding Publishing House, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Tolstoy, L., 2013, Jurnal - ediţie definitivă [Diary - Definitive edition], European Idea Publishing House, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Tolstoy, L., 2016, Spovedanie - căutând sensul vieţii [Confession - Seeking for the sense of life], Herald Press, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Tolstoy, L., 2017, Despre Dumnezeu şi om - din jurnalul ultimilor ani (1907-1910) [About God and man - From the last years diary], Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]

Vadimov, A.V., 1998, 'Cuvânt înainte. Dincolo de fruntariile cunoaşterii de sine [Foreword. Beyond the borders of self-knowledge]', in N. Berdiaev (ed.), Cunoaşterea de sine. Exerciţiu de autobiografie filozofică [Self-knowing. Exercise of philosophical autobiography], pp. 9-12, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, RO.         [ Links ]



Iuliu-Marius Morariu

Received: 04 Nov. 2018
Accepted: 23 Feb. 2019
Published: 02 May 2019



1. Presented only in a few book reviews and having just short references in the works dedicated to him. See, for example, Casañas (1982:282-288), Louth (2015:60-76); Lubas-Bartoszyńska (2010:55-75).
2. Famous for his political ideas related to socialism. For more information about his ideas, see Tolstoy (1904, 1907, 2008, 2013, 2016, 2017).
3. According to him: 'It is necessary to mention some hereditary characteristics of our family. I belong to a race of predominant people, with a predisposition for crises of anger. My father, a very good man, had a very lively character and, because of it, had many clashes and conflicts during his life. My brother, a man of an extraordinary kindness, had real anger crises. I have also inherited this irritable and dominant character. It is a mark of Russian boyars. As a child, I felt the need to hit with the chair some of the people who surrounded me. To all of these, a certain loneliness is added; I have understood it also as a way in which the world has perceived me, but also through my own conscience' (Berdiaev 1992a:21).
4. Somewhere else, he says: 'They have called me a philosopher of freedom. An obscurantist prelate has called me even a 'slave of freedom'. And it is true, I love freedom more than everything, I am born from it, it is my mother. For me, it is the primordial being' (Berdiaev 1992a:65).
5. 'God wanted freedom and it was freedom that has led to the world's tragedy. Freedom is at the beginning, but also at the end. It is, in fact, a philosophy of freedom that I have built, improved and completed all my life. I am convinced that God is present only where there is freedom and that He cannot be found outside of it' (Berdiaev 1992a:65; Berdiaev 2009:35).
6. 'My fight against Communism has been a spiritual, not a political one, it has been a fight against the spirit of Communism' (Berdiaev 1992a:289).
7. For, as specialists show: 'Berdiaev's philosophy is an eschatological one, therefore it is linkedwith the perspective of the final end of man and world. Conseqeuntly, the notion of redemption, like the one of salvation, is essential for him. Berdiaev deduces three categories of time: cosmic time, historical time and existential time, which is the that of subjectivity, of human eternity. The three ones tend towards eternity, which is the end of time' (Huisman 2001:106).

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The contradictory unity of faith and reason in Christian theoretical thought



Sergey N. Astapov

Institute of Philosophy and Social and Political Studies, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation





This article aims to demonstrate the unity of faith and reason as irrational and rational elements of the theoretical religious discourse on instances of Christian theoretical thought. This unity was represented as a dialectical contradiction, the violation of which led to the destruction of religious discourse. The contradictory unity of faith and reason was researched in European medieval philosophy and Russian religious philosophy in the first half of the 20th century and in the theoretical systems that were considered ways of explaining the relationship between faith and reason in Christian thought. This article reveals two historical types of the dynamic unity of faith and reason as well as violations of this unity: when medieval authors attempted to find the most effective relationship between faith and reason for Christian theology; and when Russian philosophers attempted to transmit theological knowledge by means of philosophy in the secular age. The results of the dynamic unity violations in both traditions are investigated as the conceptions that had been denied by these traditions. The main conclusion of the article is that Christian theoretical thought maintained the contradictions between faith and reason as a search for its development.

Keywords: Faith; European medieval philosophy; Reason; Religious discourse; Russian religious philosophy; Theology.




Discussions about the relationship between religious faith and the rational content of religious beliefs thread throughout the history of Christian thought and do not lose relevance in the contemporary philosophy of religion. Do religious beliefs have their foundations only in the existence of religious experience or do they have a rational basis too? How important is the rational basis for religious consciousness? These questions are important for theoretical Christian thought, for both theology and philosophy. Alvin Plantinga (2000) expressed this importance in this way:

Classical Christian belief includes, in the first place, the belief that there is such a person as God. God is a person: that is, a being with intellect and will This is the theistic component of Christian belief. However, there is also the uniquely Christian component: that we human beings are somehow mired in rebellion and sin, that we consequently require deliverance and salvation, and that God has arranged for that deliverance through the sacrificial suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was both a man as well as the second member of Trinity, the uniquely divine son of God Accordingly, our question is this: is belief of this sort intellectually acceptable? In particular, is it intellectually acceptable for us, now? For educated and intelligent people living in the twenty-first century, with all that has happened over the last four or five hundred years? (pp. VII-VIII)

In the history of Christian thought, the relationship between religious faith and rational grounds for religious beliefs is denoted by opposition of faith and reason. This article aims to demonstrate unity of faith and reason as irrational and rational elements of theoretical religious discourse on instances of Christian theoretical thought.

The aim seems to bring nothing new. Many authors have written about the unity of faith and reason in religion. However, this article represents this unity as a dialectical contradiction, the violation of which leads to the destruction of religious discourse. Investigation of examples from the history of Christian thought (both preservation of the contradictory unity and violation of it) will be more effective for achievement of this aim than consideration of contemporary authors' arguments for the rationality or irrationality of religious beliefs.

Rational and irrational elements construct a contradiction in theology (which is a sort of religious discourse) because they logically deny each other, but they coexist in dynamic unity, which is expressed by philosophical thought in a form of antinomy. If this dynamic unity is broken, theological discourse is transformed into mystical discourse (in the case when irrational elements dominate) or into the discourse of religious philosophy (when rational elements dominate). The term 'religious philosophy' is used in this article to signify the kind of philosophy that has religious character, which is a sort of theoretical religious discourse. The Anglo-American philosophical tradition uses the term 'philosophy of religion' for this philosophy.1 However, the first term emphasises the thought that it is philosophy in religion more than philosophy about religion.

The contradictory unity of faith and reason will be demonstrated by the examples of two historical types of religious philosophical discourse: European medieval philosophy and Russian religious philosophy from the first half of the 20th century. These discourses are interesting for the topic of the article because they demonstrate two models for explaining relations between faith and reason in Christian thought. The first model is subjugation of philosophical discourse for purposes of the religion of revelation. It demonstrates what kind of relation between faith and reason is the most effective for Christian theology. The second model represents transmission of theological knowledge by means of philosophy in the secular age, when rationality and science dominated consciousness and among theories. Moreover, the case of Russian religious philosophy is interesting for the topic because Russian philosophers were criticised by theologians of the Russian Orthodox Church for exceeding Christian doctrine and pantheism.

In this article, neither Protestant theology and philosophy nor Catholic philosophy of the 20th century is specially considered. At first sight, it results in discrepancy with contents of the article. However, the aspiration to review all theological and philosophical systems of Christianity would lead to the fact that the article either would turn into a set of descriptions or expand to a monograph volume. In that case, it would be required to include both theology of the Armenian Church, Coptic theology, and theology of the Assyrian Church of the East. It is represented that the most important element is to show the most striking examples from Christian thought, and what is more, not to separate but to unite certain spiritual traditions in which this contradictory unity was realised.

Protestantism is extremely varied in this regard. Protestant theology is represented by different points of views on the considered issue such as Luther's, Schleiermacher's, Harnack's and Bart's views. The contemporary Ukrainian researcher of Protestant theology, M. Cherenkov, noted that:

Protestant theology accenting the principles 'Quinque Sola', supplementing each other, became in some sense fundamentalist: it was constructed on the bases of Bible's faith without history, i.e., without theology and philosophy in their historical forms. But this fundamentalism in its adherence to the Scripture and Christ delivered everyone from any other authority for the personal and creative relation. It is similar as in non-Euclidean geometry through the point, which is not lying on a straight line, can be drawn many parallel to the straight, - in Protestant theology the prospect of creation of a set of the philosophies developing initial theological premises was revealed. It answers the question why the Protestant theology proceeds in the most various and conflicting philosophical and religious approaches instead of creating unique philosophy of religion. (Cherenkov 2011)

The 20th century gave the whole range of Protestant theologies different collisions between faith and reason and even different understandings of belief. Protestant philosophy is, in this sense, even more varied. One pole of it is Kant's philosophy, and the opposite pole is Kierkegaard's philosophy. Therefore, Protestant thought in this article is presented as appeals to representatives of modern philosophy of religion, such as A. Plantinga.


Three discourses on Christian theoretical thought

Religious discourse, considered either in communicative situations, immediately, or as a text belonging to a certain author, time, religious tradition, national culture and so on, contains rational and irrational components.

The complexity of these components is represented as syncretic unity of heterogeneous elements on the level of everyday communications and a specific contradiction on the theoretical level of religious consciousness. A discourse is understood in this article as a speech in its social context where the context determines the main features of the speech. The religious context requires not only informing about something but also rousing to activity concerning a subject of religious belief. In other words, religious discourse is a set of propositions transmitted by any religious author that have the purpose not only of giving information but also expressing its importance for an individual or a social group in his or its relation to a supernatural being and its own being, which is understood as depending on the supernatural one.

This article does not state that the religious consciousness of an individual is tortured by the contradiction between reason and faith. Reason and faith can complete one another. An individual can accept some statement by faith, and then he or she can find an affirmation of the statement through his or her experience or reflection. Moreover, the everyday religious consciousness is syncretic and eclectic, which means that, depending on circumstances, either faith or reason becomes dominant. However, can religious philosophy discourse and religious mysticism discourse sit alongside one another as two sorts of theological discourse? Is there a clear border between the discourses of religious philosophy and theology? Might the discourse of religious philosophy be called 'discourse of reason' and the discourse of theology called 'discourse of faith'?

Indeed, religious philosophy discourse and religious mysticism discourse sit alongside one another, but the two sit alongside theological discourse. The border between religious philosophy and theology can be invisible for Western Christianity, which produced such disciplines as 'philosophical theology' and 'non-confessional theology'. However, it is clearly visible for Eastern Christianity.2 Philosophy has the intention of explaining all existence through rational deductions, of finding rational arguments for the propositions that express religious experience. It is a 'discourse of reason' in the strict sense. Theology knows the incomprehensible mystery of God. From the point of view of theology of reason, when it meets aspects of this mystery, it must reverentially stop its activity and fall silent in its explanations in order not to turn away from the Divine Truth.

Mystical discourse, which is discourse of religious poetry, symbols and metaphors, is not a theological discourse because mystical discourse is independent of a number of religious tradition norms and does not convey traditional points of views on relations with the supernatural. Speculative mysticism (of J. Eckhart, J. Böhme, etc.) could be considered a kind of philosophy because it solves the philosophical task, which is explanation of mystical experience by rational means, and this solution is achieved through the use of known philosophical concepts, approaches and theories. However, speculative mysticism should be distinguished from philosophy in two ways. Firstly, criticism that is peculiar to philosophy does not belong to it. Speculative mysticism using achievements of philosophy eclectically combines elements of different philosophical theories. It compiles different arguments that are received sometimes opposite from another theoretical approach. Secondly, it does not solve the task of strengthening an individual in faith, which is the task included in a set of theological tasks.

Neither mystical discourse nor philosophical discourse expresses completeness of religious thought: mystics is subjective and does not transmit experience of religious tradition, while philosophy is critical and does not transmit experience of a meeting with the supernatural being. That difference is why Christian theologians perceive them (philosophical and mystic discourses) as two divergent ways of religious thought (the heresies).

Mystical and religious philosophical discourses are in proximity to theological discourse, but are not equal to it. It should be distinguished from the discourse of theology and from the discourse of mystics and the discourse of religious philosophy. They are three kinds of religious discourse. Mystical discourse differs from two other discourses by its picturesque and metaphorical style and its non-logicality. Moreover, in some forms, it is characterised by spontaneity of speech. Religious philosophy proceeds from these premises, which are accepted by reason exclusively. Theology, in addition, accepts premises 'from revelation' that are maintained by sacred scriptures and doctrinal formulas of the specific religious tradition.


Specific features of religious faith

The rational sphere of consciousness can be described by the following essential characteristics: the logical form, systematism, criticism, argumentation and transmission of concepts, expression of essential properties and qualities of cognised objects. The out-logical form of expression, spontaneity, dynamism, integrity and value accentuation are the characteristics of the irrational sphere of consciousness. The irrational sphere is formed by faith, experiences and sensory data, that is, by pre-rational psychics. However, it is not true to say that religious concepts do not have irrational elements. Despite the fact that conceptualisation implies rationalisation, the irrational elements continue its existence in concepts in other forms. Therefore, rational components in religious concepts are explained by appellation to experiences of a meeting with a supernatural being, that is, by irrational experiences of some individuals or religious tradition. Then, theologians and religious philosophers state that the irrational sphere is a basic cognitive ability like intuition (Florensky 1990:25-43; Frank 2000:306-352; Trubetskoy 1998:264-265). Finally, religious consciousness expresses its content in images and symbols. Therefore, conceptualisation does not set free religious consciousness from the sensuous sphere and irrational elements concerned with it.

Faith is the main element of the irrational sphere of consciousness and the basis of religious beliefs. Psychologists consider faith the specific state of psychics related to anticipation of something wished (Bratus & Inina 2011:26). This state arises in situations of vagueness or probability and, moreover, in relation to the events or the ideas that have importance for an individual or a social group. When an event has occurred or is evidently impossible or when a proposition has been verified, faith dies down or it transforms into proved knowledge. Likewise, if an event or an idea is not important for an individual (or a group), it will not be the subject of faith.

Religious faith has six specific features (at a minimum) that distinguish it from other sorts of faith:

1. It is a faith in the reality of a supernatural being.

2. It is a faith dependent on processes and events in human life and in the world from activity of the supernatural being.

3. It is a faith in manifestations of the supernatural being in the environment. According to religious consciousness, the supernatural is found in a miracle, that is, in an act of radical intervention of the supernatural in the order of nature, an act of interruption of natural and social laws.

4. It is a faith in communication with the supernatural and in the possibility of influencing the supernatural as a result of this communication.

5. It is a faith in the truth of the ideas, the doctrines and the theories of the supernatural.

6. It is a faith in the authority of some individuals (the prophets, the saints, the ministers of religious worship, etc.), who communicate with the supernatural.

It follows from this set of religious faith features that a deist's faith cannot be considered religious faith. A deist's faith does not suppose a connection between an individual and God, and does not place the life of an individual as dependent on God. Therefore, this faith is indifferent to forming human behaviour, relations to people and the world, or the way and meaning of human existence. This faith is a philosophical faith.

According to Stephen T. Davis (2009), faith in divine revelation is the feature distinguishing Christian beliefs from deism:

The Deists importantly differed from traditional Christian thought in their rejection of all robust notions of divine revelation (except 'natural revelation', i.e., conclusions about God and religion reached by unaided human reason). Indeed, they rejected all claims of divine intervention in the world - not only special revelation but also miracles, epiphanies, and incarnations. (p. 30)

Religious faith is different from the faith that exists in the everyday life of an individual by absence of its orientation to the most probable. Russian religious philosopher S. Frank wrote that religious belief was a belief in a transcendent subject. The belief cannot be tested by any direct empirical experience or a scientific experiment. There is no less probable issue for rational thought than 'the hypothesis of existence of God' (Frank 2007:13). Religious belief or faith, according to the words of Frank and other Christian authors, exists only as a consequence of a single circumstance: it is based on revealing God himself, that is, direct communication with the supernatural as the source of it.

Of course, not only immediate experience allows us to claim the existence of God. An individual can accept some beliefs in God through a preacher's speech or by reading the religious literature when the influence is through events of personal, non-religious experience or by influence of religious tradition in which an individual was raised. However, in all these cases, an individual will verify his beliefs, and will collate them with something else. Only the experience of meeting the supernatural (e.g. a miracle) will become a solid basis of religious beliefs.


The problem of correlations between faith and reason for European medieval thought

The majority of medieval Christian authors put priority on faith against reason. This priority is explained by Christianity being a religion of salvation. The Christians believe in the salvation mission of Jesus Christ. If this belief is considered from the position of reason, its content seems absurd. To sacrifice the goods of the current life for a promise and to attest blessedness after death seem insanity. However, Jesus Christ calls it exactly: 'Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth' (Lk 12:33). At the same time, according to the Christian doctrine, it is not necessary to be a sage to make himself ready for the eternal life:

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Cor 1:20-21)

The line of the opposition of faith to reason was expressed clearly by apologists Tatian the Syrian and Tertullian. They stated all considerations of the world or God were vain and vainglorious. However, they used reasons for justification of Christian belief. Tatian addressed Greek philosophers:

Cease to make a parade of sayings which you have derived from others, and to deck yourselves like the daw in borrowed plumes. If each state were to take away its contribution to your speech, your fallacies would lose their power. While inquiring what God is, you are ignorant of what is in yourselves; and, while staring all agape at the sky, you stumble into pitfalls. The reading of your books is like walking through a labyrinth, and their readers resemble the cask of the Danaids. (Tatian:XXVI)

Tertullian fought against ancient philosophy with its own logical weapons - paradoxes. One of Tertullian's paradoxes found its expression in the sentence (which arose later, after Tertullian), 'Credo, quia absurdum est'. It has a basis in the passage of Tertullian's work On the Flesh of Christ:

The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must need be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible. (Tertullian:5 [4])

This line declaring the absolute authority of faith and the negative relation to reason passes through all Christian thought, and it is illuminated by the flares of anti-intellectualism in the works of Peter Damian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Søren Kierkegaard and Lev Shestov.

Arnobius the Elder, an apologist, later compared with Tertullian, did not deny the importance of logical arguments for justification of Christian religion. He, using these arguments, demonstrates that faith in Jesus Christ is more pragmatic than faith in any ethnic gods or philosophical doctrines. He states that considerations of ancient philosophers are presuppositions requiring faith. However, it is better to have faith in Jesus Christ than in presuppositions of philosophers. In the first case, it will be a faith in one's own salvation, and in the second case, it will be a faith in various individual opinions (Arnobius:II, 4-11).

St Augustine Aurelius, like Arnobius, saw the importance of reason as a means for validating Christian faith. According to Augustine, an individual, directed by reason, chooses the true subject of religion.

Hereby, Augustine constructs the main statement of Christian knowledge: faith gives truths on religious subjects to an individual, but reason inclines the individual to them. Therefore, faith and reason determine each other. In the book On Order, Augustine defines faith as adoption of a thought with consent. It has advantage over reason because it is available to each individual. At the same time, the ability to reason is developed differently in different individuals, and wisdom is a property of the few.3 Moreover, faith in Jesus Christ gives salvation to everybody. At the same time, reason does not have the property of salvation. Faith has priority in time, but reason has priority in the essence of a fact because faith is only the first step of cognition. The final purpose of cognition is contemplation of God.4

This reflection was called, by Augustine, a light of the Truth, illuminating a mind. Augustine wrote that there is God as the source of intellectual light, and an individual discerns ideas and concepts with the help of this light, like his eyes discern things with the help of an outward light.5 Thus, the process of cognition, according to Augustine, leads to God as the Truth. The process consists of three stages. In the first stage, an individual looks for and recognises traces of God in the world. He or she goes from a phenomenon to its cause and then to the cause of this cause, and so on. Thus, he or she approaches the knowledge of the First Cause.6

In the second stage, an individual looks inside him- or herself, and he or she appeals to the soul, and he or she knows God through his image in the soul, called the 'interior man' by Augustine. Three superior abilities of a human being are evidence of God: memory, thinking and will. In the third stage, an individual understands inconstancy and imperfection of the spirit. He or she rises over him- or herself and contemplates the constant and eternal Truth.7

According to the Christian doctrine, God is the Truth, the truth that does not depend on human knowledge, which is the external authority to humans and their knowledge. This authority can be accepted only by faith. Therefore, the way of faith is the direct way to the Truth. However, the Truth can be opened immediately for a few individuals. The overwhelming majority of people accept it through authoritative evidence of those few individuals. Reason can turn out to be both a helper and a barrier for comprehension of the Truth. Reason can convince others to accept other external authorities because the authority of the Truth is not a single external authority. However, Christianity teaches humans the image and likeness of God. Therefore, reason by humans is the image and likeness of the Divine Logos, and any imprint or reflection of the Truth must be in reason.

The balanced contradiction of faith and reason can be seen in the works of Eriugena, Anselm and Duns Scotus (the author who tried to put reason over faith, but does it very carefully, with many reservations), and the breaking of the balance can be seen in Peter Abelard's philosophy as well. Abelard states the priority of reason. If the Son of God is named Logos, logic must be sacred. Moreover, history presents human knowledge as based on increasing reason but not increasing in faith, and always there is the danger of false faith.8 Faith is defined by Abelard as a presupposition of the things that are invisible and inaccessible to the senses, that is, a presupposition of unauthentic and doubtful things.9 In that way, Abelard shifts faith from the sphere of the super-rational truth that was described by Augustine and Anselm to the sphere of probability.

Abelard's position destroys the basis of religious consciousness because it instigates rational investigation of doctrinal statements of religion to conclude the possibility of believing in these statements. Christian theology negatively estimates a desire to test all beings by reason because the individual, claiming exclusive right to reason to cognise all beings, states his own absoluteness.

A vivid example that absolutism of reason brings denial of religion was demonstrated by the French Enlightenment. Philosophers of the Enlightenment started with the declaration determining the role of knowledge, especially the knowledge of 'natural laws', for correction of social relations, and then they proclaimed that the Christian Church was a stronghold of ignorance and obscurantism. They considered God to be the wise First Cause, the architect who planned and created the world, but who did not interfere with its processes. Some of these philosophers (Diderot, Helvetius, Holbach and La Mettrie) took up an atheistic position.10

According to Christian theology, the absoluteness of God does not permit cognising his essence, whereas rational cognition aims to comprehend the essence. God is transcendent, and only his properties are comprehensible through analogies of his creatures. If man were able to comprehend God, he would become equal to God. However, a creature cannot be equal to its creator. The essence of God cannot be expressed by concepts because the meaning of the word 'concept' (according to its Latin etymology) is 'grasp' or 'acceptance'. That meaning is why there is tradition (especially, in Easter Christianity theology) of distinguishing rational (positive, cataphatic) knowledge of God from mystical (negative, apophatic) knowledge. Cataphatic theology and apophatic theology are not two ways of knowledge of God independent of each other. According to Dionysius the Areopagite, the cataphatic way is preliminary to the apophatic one, and theology becomes apophatic when it drains its cataphatic resources.

For Dionysius the Areopagite, the author distinguishing between cataphatic from apophatic theology, God is the total 'Super', the Super-good, the Super-living, the Super-wise, the Super-essential and the Super-Divine Deity. God connects with the world through Divine powers, which are called diakrises [distinctions] by Dionysius. Diakrises must be understood as progressions (outcomings) of God to the outside. God appears himself in diakrises as anything qualitative. His qualities can be called the Good, the Beautiful, the Being, the Life-producing, the Wise and others. God becomes cognisable and expressed in concepts, propositions and deductions (Dionysius the Areopagite 1897:19-21). It means that there is no individual, who comprehends God by the power of his mind, but there is God, who reveals himself to an individual or, more exactly, there is a process in which an individual goes up to God as much as God, through his diakrises, goes down to the individual. Thus, knowledge of God is the act of 'synergism', of cooperation between activities of God and an individual. However, cataphatic definitions testify to the relationship of God with the world and do not testify to God himself. To achieve knowledge of God himself requires 'extracting' him from relations with the world. The 'extraction' can be done by abstraction from the qualities that are related to God in his Divine diakrises, as they are related to subjects of the world. This method is a way of negating the names used to refer to God on the basis of worldly analogies. As a result, God becomes nameless. An individual can say about God only that He is non-being, nobody and nothing. This process is negative theology (Dionysius the Areopagite 1897:83).

The method of 'negative knowledge' of God suggests that an individual must except himself or herself out of the world, that is, it suggests ascetism and prayerful solitude. In that way, the apophatic line becomes the mystic line and develops in hesychasm, a practice of sacred silence in Orthodox monasticism that aims to contemplate the Divine and Uncreated Light. However, the apophatic line was not a parallel line to the cataphatic one. These lines intersected because, on the one hand, the cataphatic way arises from descriptions and explanations of immediate religious experience, and on the other hand, the apophatic way arrives at mystical contemplations and requires description of the process of the contemplations (more exactly, the procedure, 'technique' of it), its results and correlations among them and everyday life.

The situation can be illustrated by the considerations of Gregory Palamas, a Byzantine theorist of Hesychasm, as a mystical and ascetical current in Orthodox monasticism aimed at conjunction between a human and God. According to Palamas, God is inaccessible to intellectual cognition. Therefore, it is not possible to learn anything about the essence of God. True knowledge is not achieved by reason. This knowledge is given by God. A human as the image and likeness of God has immediate experiences of him that are independent of investigation of the world. Ascetics, especially hesychasm, is a practice of ascending to God:

These, who were cleaned by hesychasm, receive the invisible contemplations, but the essence of God remains inaccessible, though who received ones are initiated to His mysteries and reflect on the sighted beings. In that way they having the impassive and asomatous mind unite themselves with the Divine gift of His light, accessible for a mind, at the same time, they know the Divinity is over all contemplations and all contemplative initiations. Thus, they receive the supernatural grace, inaccessible for us, when they know the invisible not through the invisible being (like those, who theologize by deprivation of the properties), but through vision they know the being, which is over vision, and feel deprivation out the reasoning. The accepting and vision of Deity is other and over cataphatic theology. Likewise the accepting of negation which occurs in the spiritual vision is other and over apophatic theology, since the visible is excessive. (Gregory Palamas 2006:213-214)

In other words, Gregory Palamas represented the Orthodox apophatism and stated the principal unknowableness of God, but at the same time, he said God reveals himself to an individual who looks for communication with God in his 'spiritual mind'.

The complexity of Palamas' speech construction is perceptible. It is not only a manifestation of 'the Byzantine style' of a speech, but also an expression of Palamas' desire to transmit the content of mystical experience through reasonings, that is, through reason. Reason, in this situation, comes to contradictions that are expressed in speech by oxymora and metaphors, in discourse by paradoxes and symbols, and in philosophical reflections by antinomies, that is, by the kinds of a speech and thought that are forms of the contradiction of faith and reason.


The problem of relations between faith and reason: the point of view of Russian religious philosophy

A Russian philosopher in the first half of the 20th century, S.N. Bulgakov (1994), noted that all religious thought presented itself as evolution of the contradiction between the transcendent and the immanent:

The object of religion, God, is something, on the one hand, absolutely transcendent, foreign to nature, outward to the world and to a man, but on the other hand, He reveals to religious consciousness, touches it, comes into it, becomes the immanent content of it. Both moments of religious consciousness are given synchronously, like poles in their pushing off and attraction. (p. 88)

Bulgakov expressed transcendence of God by the Greek A (a-privativum in grammar, i.e., Nobody) and his immanence by Ōn (the Existing). He believes apophatism is a tendency of thought towards A, and cataphatism is the tendency towards Ōn, but both of them are based on faith in the revelation of the supernatural Divine being (Bulgakov 1994:92-93). This faith can be called, figuratively (according to another Russian philosopher, P. Florensky), the effect of vision of 'azure of the Eternity through gaping cracks of the human reason' (Florensky 1990:483).

S. Bulgakov wrote that if cataphatic consideration is given by the individual who does not have experience with the mystical revelation of God, then it is not quite clear what kinds of symbols are used by the individual and what is the reason for this use. Apophatism does not have to be 'naked negation', that is, rational or irrational negation of some characteristics of being on behalf of non-being. The negation must be based on substitution of characteristics of our world by characteristics of the hidden (unspeakable), supernatural world.

The other Russian philosopher, Aleksey Losev, asserted the dialectical unity of faith and reason as unity of two points of cognition. Faith fixes a subject of cognition, but a process of cognition concludes in examination of signs or indications of the subject, which is the work of reason (Losev 1991:104-105).

Losev's consideration reproduces the thought of Vladimir Solovyov, a Russian philosopher in the second half of the 19th century. Solovyov (2011) believed that faith was the precondition of knowledge, which provided connection between the outward world and the content of our consciousness. He wrote:

If we did not believe in existence of the outward reality, all that we experience and know would have exclusively a subjective significance, would represent exclusively data of our interior psychical life. (p. 40)

Solovyov pointed out that religious faith was, first of all, a faith specialised through its subject, the Divine being, which is why he concluded: 'Existence of the outward world and existence of the Divine principle both are exclusively probabilities or conditional for reason, they can be stated unconditionally only by faith' (Solovyov 2011:41).

Russian philosophers pointed out the certain unity of faith and reason in cognition expressed through competition between them (as ways of representing knowledge of consciousness) in religious discourse. Dogmatic discourse is the opposite of discourse trough explanations and proofs. Moreover, dogmatic discourse contains the unity of immediate faith and arguments from authority (of religious tradition, leaders, scriptures, etc.). The immediate faith can be considered like mystical intuition, just as S. Frank considered it.

According to Frank, mystical intuition (i.e. faith) apprehends this reality as the non-different totality that can be called the transfinite and transdefinite reality, the Absolute or God. Reason reflects the reality of the world of different subjects with all differences and contrasts among them. It looks at the transfinite and transdefinite reality through analogy with the world. Because differentiation cannot be applied to the non-different totality, it cannot be expressed by any concepts. However, cognition of all existing gives a picture of a light of absolute reality through a number of subjects. This picture can be seen by the unity of mystical intuition and rational activity, that is, by the unity of faith and reason (Frank 2000:324-325).11

In contrast to S. Frank, S. Bulgakov does not consider religious faith to be a sort of intuition. He distinguishes faith from intuition using three features. Intuition has its roots in everyday experience, but faith has its source in the person's free will and is directed to a transcendental one. Intuition is determined by natural laws, but faith is not. Intuition chooses the most probable among available situations and, at the same time, the most important for everyday life, but faith is the creative act of the person who transcends available experience.

Extending S. Bulgakov's thought (Bulgakov 1994:88-93), each religious thinker can be claimed to take one of three positions:

1. apophatism, which acknowledges the principal transcendence and unknowableness (unintelligibleness) of God

2. cataphatism, which states God is immanent to the world and to human consciousness

3. antinomism, which expresses the idea that 'the transcendent being is in the immanent one'.

The theorising of a religious thinker, indifferent to any position, must be based on the religious faith.

If faith is absent, the first position transforms into scepticism and then into atheism. The second position transforms into pantheism, dissolving God in everyday reality or into 'positive science', which does not need a 'hypothesis of God'. The third position looks for antinomy solutions through constructing complicated deductions, inserting various admissions that come to deteriorate in the grandiosity of theological conceptions, to 'death by a thousand qualifications' (A. Flew). Faith allows us to keep the tension of antinomies because it is a bridge between the transcendent and the immanent, and the bridge cannot be constructed by reason.

P.A. Florensky called various attempts by reason to test data on faith, especially believers' evidence of the supernatural being, 'demonic arrogance'. Florensky (1990) called faith in evidence, which can be tested by reason, 'an intellectual belief' and wrote:

There are many kinds of godlessness, but the worst of these is called 'intellectual belief', more exactly -'rational belief'. It is the worst kind, since it does not acknowledge a subject of faith ('the things invisible'), moreover it is hypocrisy: it acknowledges God to reject His self being - the invisible being, i.e., the super-rational being. (p. 64)

P. Florensky's consideration obliges us to conclude that if rational belief is demonic arrogance, then philosophy of religion on the whole, because it states this belief, is demonic arrogance too, and Christians must not engage in philosophy. According to Florensky, this consideration is true. However, his pathos is directed against 'arrogance of reason', that is, against the pretension of reason to comprehend what exceeds human abilities. It is not directed against understanding religion, features of the world outlook based on relations between human and God, or understanding of these relations and comprehending this understanding, that is, against solution of the main problems of philosophy of religion. In the book The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, Florensky states 'the most honest way' of theoretical representation of relationships between God and people lies through antinomies (Florensky 1990:162-164). At the same time, he asserts antinomies take place in human consciousness, in reason, but do not take place in the Divine sphere, and they are overcome through religious faith in the act of Communion. Antinomies are constitutive elements of religion, if it is thought rationally, but in the case where an individual appeals to God, he transcends his considerations, his available existence and himself. This case is an act of religious experience.

However, religious experience cannot be a criterion for verification of a faith because religious experience can turn out experience with false content. Ivan Ilyin wrote about this issue in the book Axioms of Religious Experience (Ilyin 2006:31). He distinguished three points of religious experience: subject (more exactly, the Subject), content and act. The Subject is the Perfection, the Idea, or the Most Real, that is, the reality that attracts everybody to itself through its perfection. The content of religious experience is what the individual or people believe in and what they confess as perfection and truth. It is not equal to the Subject of experience because content can be fantastic and objectless. Something can be experienced as illusory as perfection. An act of religious experience is how an individual or people believe, that is, a set of various psychical functions: emotions, affects, perceptions, imagination, thinking, will and others. I. Ilyin noted that a believer is able to accept the content of his religious experience for the subject of it when content is hypostasised, like if it was a perfect subject (Ilyin 2006:129-138).

Thus, faith leads an individual to religious experience, but experience can be illusory and false. Therefore, it must be examined by reason, which has to address the common experience of religious tradition to find correspondence with the religious experience of the individual.



Religious thought, as a thought about the relationship between people and supernatural beings, includes unintelligible and ineffable components that are accepted by faith. However, the majority of the components form the basis for various doctrinal statements, constructing a framework for theories both theological and philosophical. That issue is why Christian theological thought must maintain a balance between faith and reason.

Christian mystical discourse, at first sight, denies the significance of reason because mysticism is based on immediate revelation of God. However, conceptualisation of mystical experience requires rationalisation and the activity of reason to incorporate evidence of revelation in the system of ideas that exists in the religious tradition. Mystical thought has to proceed from vivid symbols and metaphors to propositions and deductions; it either finds correlates in theological tradition or creates a new theory used by various theological and philosophical concepts along with evidence of everyday experience that is known and convenient for its author.

Christian philosophical discourse is able to maintain unity of faith and reason, expressing it with antinomies, but often does not keep it in attempts to accomplish non-contradictory knowledge of the whole world that exceeds Christian dogmas. Sergey Bulgakov (1993) in the book Tragedy of Philosophy called these attempts 'philosophical heresies'. He wrote:

Logical monism, being natural necessity of reason - ratio - and implicating possibility of adequate, non-contradictory cognition of the world, is an ineradicable feature of any philosophical system, which pretends dimly or clearly, instinctively or consciously, timidly or militantly to be the absolute philosophy and looks at its sketch of being the system of the world. (pp. 312-313)

The history of European Christian theoretical thought demonstrates that faith provides for balance of contradictory propositions, which reason produces on the subject of faith. Rationalisation of the subject of faith and a search for proof warranting this subject have limits that are created by faith. At the same time, negation of the participation of reason in accepting religious subjects leads to mysticism, which can exist in the frames of the religious tradition only by its justification, including logical constructions foreign to mystical contemplations and illuminations.



In the entire history of Christian theoretical thought, unity of faith and reason was the dialectical contradiction, violation of which led to the destruction of religious discourse. Rational and irrational elements construct a contradiction in theology (which is a sort of religious discourse) because they logically deny each other, but they coexist in dynamic unity, which, in philosophy, can be expressed as an antinomy. If this dynamic unity is broken, theological discourse is transformed into mystical discourse (where irrational elements dominate) or into discourse of religious philosophy (where rational elements dominate). These discourses sit in proximity to theological discourse, but are not equal to it. The contradictory unity of faith and reason was researched in European medieval philosophy and Russian religious philosophy in the first half of the 20th century in theoretical systems that can be considered ways of explaining the relationship between faith and reason in Christian thought. Medieval authors attempted to find the most effective relationship between faith and reason for Christian theology. Russian philosophers attempted to transmit theological knowledge by means of philosophy in the secular age. Both of the methods demonstrate the dynamic unity of faith and reason as well as violation of it.



Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.



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Sergey Astapov

Received: 24 Sept. 2018
Accepted: 22 Mar. 2019
Published: 23 July 2019



1. The appellation 'Anglo-American philosophical tradition' is used here, following R. Suinburne (Swinburne 2007:89), for Anglo-American analytic philosophy of religion. According to definitions of its problem field made by Suinburne and several of its famous representatives (Alston 1998:238; Plantinga 1984:268; Pojman & Rea 2008:XV-XVI; Taliaferro 1998:4-5), it has a character of religious philosophy.
2. An example of distinction between theology and religious philosophy is given by the Orthodox priest and theologian Joost Van Rossum, who sees the main feature that distinguished religious philosophy from theology as 'a free reflection on the mystery of God and creation, which may go beyond the limits of Divine revelation' (Van Rossum 2012).
3. De ordine libri duo: II, 5 [16], 9 [26]. Titles of Augustine's work in Latin refer to the electronic bibliotheca 'S.Aurelii Augustini opera ominia - editio Latina' (Augustine).
4. De vera religione liber unus: 24 [45].
5. De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim: XII, 31 [59].
6. De Trinitate libri quindecim: XII, 15.
7. De civitate Dei contra paganos libri XXII: XI, 28.
8. Petri Abaelardi introductio ad theologiam in libris tres divisa: II, 1051. References to Abelalard's works in Latin are given according to Migne's 'Patrologiae cursus completus. Series Latina' in electronic bibliotheca [Migne].
9. Petri Abaelardi invectiva in quedam ignarum dialectices, qui tamen ejus studium reprehendebat, et omnia ejus dogmata putabat sophismata et deceptions: 355.
10. Despite the fact that La Mettrie criticized Diderot's deism in 'Philosophical Thoughts', Diderot in 'The Skeptic's Walk', as I. Jonathan considers, moved away from deism towards materialism and atheism (Jonathan 2006:791, 818). On atheism of Enlightenment, see also Newland (1974), Smith (1965) and Vartanian (1960).
11. But then the whole of Frank's work 'Unfathomable' is devoted to grounding and explication of this thought.

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The linguistic characteristics of the language of human rights and its use in reality as the kingdom of God in the light of Speech Act Theory



Anna ChoI, II

IDepartment of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
IIDepartment of Systematic Theology, Seoul Theological University, Seoul, Korea





Human rights, a language that keeps public order, is realised in ordinary life by language characteristics according to social rules. Despite this fact, research that considers the linguistic features of human rights relating to its use and effects in terms of the kingdom of God in the present world seems to have not been attempted or seldom attempted. Thus, this article proposes to examine the language of human rights by means of Speech Act Theory. The approach is predicated upon the language use as performative acts. The approach shows the language of human rights with performative language by seeking to uncover the operation and effects of language of rights in real-life situations. The thrust of this article implies how we can explain the semantics of human rights and execute them in ordinary life in terms of God's kingdom.

Keywords: Human rights; Kingdom of God; Speech Act Theory; Social reality; Language of human rights.




In a general sense, theology (Bible) is about God or God's self and the phrase the 'kingdom of God' implies God's reign, as it points essentially and directly to God's self (France 2007:271). How, then, does God's reign (God's kingdom) appear in human life? How can we recognise the sovereignty of God? God reveals God's self through the Word, and when believers respond appropriately to the Word, the reign of God appears in their lives. Namely, the kingdom of God is manifested and realised in God's speech act when the believers trust and follow the Word of God in the present. As Wright (2007:25) points out, the kingdom of God is not the place to go after death, but in the real world where the reign of God is realised. If it is true that the kingdom of God is realised in our present life in God's speech act, the kingdom of God will be very closely related to human life, even human rights.1 This is because human rights are the most fundamental and essential elements in maintaining human life. The common point between human rights and the kingdom of God is realised through 'language', which is reflection on certain 'rules'. The Speech Act Theory (SAT) is a study of the use and the effect of ordinary language that we use in society and the function of language according to social rules. This relationship can be addressed based on the assumption that the language of human rights in SAT could be used to reinterpret the idea in terms of its meaning and linguistic characteristics in the kingdom of God (public life). The scope of this project does not allow to fully situate the evolution of human rights within the broader developments, history and contours of the discourse. This is not a study seeking to solve or fully deal with the complexity of human rights or human dignity in Christian ethics. However, this article's aim is to show how human rights, or the language of human rights, are linked to the kingdom of God in terms of God's total speech act in the Christian's public life from the perspective of SAT and its ethical implications. Before we look at the way in which SAT could help us to demonstrate the language of human rights and its use, it is advisable to give a brief explanation of some of the main features of SAT. Below, we shall see SAT for connecting the explanation that is mentioned above in relation to the language of human rights and its effect in the present.


Speech Act Theory

SAT2 is a method of analysing human language use in terms of actions and their effect in a speech performance. It can be explained by certain 'rules', which govern human behaviour (Searle 1971:40). Searle (1969:22) suggests that 'speaking a language is engaging in a rule governed form of behaviour'. To state it differently, to talk is to perform a series of language acts in accordance with certain rules in society. 'Using language to communicate involves following certain socially agreed-upon rules. Accordingly, a theory of language must be part of a theory of action' (Vanhoozer 1988:209).

Austin (1975:4-5), an initiator of SAT, points out that not all utterances in language can be considered in terms of only true and false as mere constatives rather than the 'constative' in language use perform a particular action just as the performative utterance does. This occurs in utterances such as 'I do' (in a marriage ceremony). For example, when one says, 'I do' in the marriage ceremony, one is not reporting on the ceremony itself (constative), but participating in it (performative) (Austin 1975:6). This indicates that both performative and constative utterances are similar in that they are both actions in speech. This performative aspect of language use in the SAT distinguishes three acts as follows (Austin 1975:94-109):

1. The locutionary act is the performance of the act of saying something that presents itself at the level of utterance, such as vocabulary and grammar, which demonstrates what has been said or written.

2. The illocutionary act is the performance of an act in saying something. It indicates the force of what we do in saying something within a conventional rule or set of rules, such as communicating within a given community (e.g. warning, promise, command and so on).

3. The perlocutionary act is 'what we bring about or achieve by saying something' (Austin 1975:109). This refers to the speaker's utterance in accordance with the illocutionary act, that is, the intended effect of what has been said to the hearer (e.g. persuading, convincing, surprising, and so on).

The locutionary act only indicates to propositional elements with propositional meaning in a grammar or sentence, while the illocutionary act is the force of the speaker's utterance to do something to the hearer or cause a particular effect. That is to say, the illocutionary force creates the perlocutionary act through the hearer's response to the speaker's utterance. The issue is about what one is doing when saying something and what effect the act of saying something has on the hearer.


Human rights in terms of Speech Act Theory

Human rights

There is some consensus among ethicists that the concept of human rights3 has to do with what makes humans human (Van der Vyver & Witte 1996:55). The idea is that 'a human right is a right that we have simply by virtue of being human' (Griffin 2008:16, [author's own italics]). There is no doubt that human rights cannot be established without a human society which serves as the setting for social development and ethical decisions that accommodate the interest and well-being of all people.

MacIntyre (1984) points out that:

The existence of particular types of social institution or practice is a necessary condition for a claim to a possession of a right [to be] an intelligible type of human performance. (p. 67)

It means that effective human rights consist of patterns of behaviour that are articulated within a particular social reality of institutional facts and constitutive rules as the virtue of being a human being. In other words:

Each formulation of human rights presupposes that the legal position of the human person with respect to society and the state is determined by something that they can simply recognize as given and respect as inalienable. (Van der Vyver & Witte 1996:56-57)

This point implies that each person who does something for society has responsibilities and status functions with authority, which have deontic powers deriving from an assigned status in public virtue. Searle argues that, 'The existence of such rights is intentionality-relative because they are human creations' and 'because rights are status functions, it follows immediately that they are intentionality-relative' (Searle 2010:176). For example, if someone is alone on a deserted island (no one else knows this fact), he or she has no status function or human rights on the island because there is no society there. The deserted island is not a society and it does not have any responsibility or obligation to safeguard or enact the rights of the person. Thus, human rights are realised for all people in a society according to social rules and constructions with accompanying duties towards other members of the society. Society also has the obligation to uphold human rights, which means that the state will not interfere in the social reality of rules following communal virtue by denying a person his or her rights as a human being.4 Simply put, 'A' has a right to do or have something with respect to a society which also implies that the society (state) has the obligation to keep A's rights under the auspices of social constitutional rules.5

Human rights are founded on institutional facts and constitutive rules that govern human behaviour; the social rules (virtue) are the collective intent of a particular society (cf. Searle 1969:35).6 The relationship often has the form of 'X counts as Y in context C' (Searle 1969:33-35) and it relates to how we understand human rights and execute them in ordinary life. For example, human rights can be defined, in line with Searle's formulation, 'X counts as Y in context C', as 'social responsibility or obligation in the context of a certain society's rules' (cf. Searle 2010:181).7 Speaking about human rights (the language of human rights),8 which mirrors social virtue in everyday life, can be counted as a series of constitutive rules in terms of meaning and illocutionary acts that are performed in a certain situation according to these sets of constitutive rules (cf. Searle 1971:42). In this regard, the language of human rights performs a speech act of implied behaviour or commitment that is determined by either non-verbal conduct or verbal conduct. It refers to who I am, or what I ought to do, in the society according to public rules. The language of human rights defines the pattern of behaviour of rights based on the constitutive rules as the illocutionary force. The illocutionary act in the language of human rights9 as F(p) in a particular society and its power10 are executed in a real-life situation, which bridges the gap between the notion of human rights and its praxis through illocutionary force. Therefore, human rights are part of speech acts, and their meaning and application in ordinary life can be analysed using linguistic tools.

Human rights as claims

Notably, 'It is quite common in moral and legal philosophy to associate rights with claims' (Cronin 1992:27), for 'human rights11 are a bundle of claims each person has simply because of his or her humanness' (Bucar & Barnett 2005:3). These rights often appear in the form of a language of claims or demands to be exercised in ordinary life according to the virtue of moral sensibility to social rules. The language of human rights has something to do with the language of the activity of claiming. As Austin shows, language can be identified based on a given social construction including culture in terms of performative utterances, that is, speech acts (cf. Austin 1975). All human words take place in a certain context (society) within which certain conditions and conventional expectations operate to understand what an utterance is doing with what it is saying, and not simply as a propositional meaning but as a meaningful action. It means that having human rights is to do something as a human being in the society. It has to do with performing an action as language itself. The language of human rights, with performative language, seeks to uncover the operation and effects of a language of rights in real-life situations. It implies how to do things with the language of human rights in everyday life which clearly refers to human rights is a kind of claim.12

Feinberg (1980:149) explains that 'a right is a kind of claim, and a claim is "an assertion of right"'. In his article, 'The Nature and Value of Rights', he identifies different forms of claiming based on the use of linguistic features as (1) making claim to, (2) claiming that and (3) having a claim. Feinberg's classification, using linguistic features, is especially significant here for probing human rights and its execution in ordinary life and it is worth examining in detail.13

The first usage is 'making a claim to'. According to SAT, speaking a language is also a kind of doing; many utterances are performative acts, for instance, 'I claim to ' This language is always linked to the question, 'who argues?' as the legal position of the speaker. Making a claim to something indicates doing something with words in a certain society (circumstances), which is always about conventional relationships in a society of speakers and it is saying x (with doing) and bring about y according to a particular purpose. It can be coded as: saying x is counted as y under the factual circumstance z (see Brümmer 2006:113). Feinberg's (1980) illustration of this usage says:

Generally speaking, only the person who has a title or who has qualified for it, or someone speaking in his name, can make claim to something as a matter of right. It is an important fact about rights (or claims), then, that they can be claimed only by those who have them If smith owes Jones five dollars, only Jones can claim the five dollars as his own that is a legal performance with direct legal consequences. Legally speaking, making claim to can itself make things happen. This sense of 'claiming', then, might well be called 'the performative sense'. The legal power to claim (performatively) one's right or the things to which one has a right seems to be essential to the very notion of a right. A right to which one could not make claim (i.e. not even for recognition) would be a very imperfect right indeed! (p. 150)

Feinberg's illustration can be seen as saying a claim x (making a claim to) is counted as legal performance under social rules. It means that 'making a claim to' is the performative act of a speaker's legal position which brings some legal demands to a certain person with the illocutionary action (force) under a particular convention. This performative language of claim has exercitives that relate to the exercise of powers, rights and influence according to contemporary social rules (Austin 1975:150-151). In other words, 'making a claim to' as the performative dimension of language entails passable acts that relate to the question, 'how can claiming rights be performed in everyday life?' The language of rights as claims therefore bridges the gap between performative language and real-life situations in terms of human action. The illocutionary act of the performative language of claiming rights entails the performance of an act in saying something according to constitutive rules from the speaker's legal position. It is the performative act of producing an utterance with a particular (conventional) illocutionary force (Austin 1975:100). This only takes place within a conventional rule because the illocutionary act serves as institutional force (procedure) influencing what we do in saying something. Therefore, the intent of the speaker who is making a claim to something in the language act is communicated in the form of an intentional act in accordance with the speaker's specific rights to claim from the hearer to act in a certain way through language.

In fact, the speaker's intention (claim) creates illocutionary force, which aims to get the hearer to do something in a certain conventional way. The claim of the speaker produces an illocutionary point, which indicates that some illocutions have certain intentions and that the illocutionary act has a clearly associated perlocutionary intent (cf. Searle 1979:3). The illocutionary act is the force of the speaker's claims to do something to the hearer or cause a particular effect. The illocutionary force creates the perlocutionary act through the hearer's response to the speaker's claims. To put it differently, the speaker's claim intends 'F(p)' to be both a content of claims '(p)' and the illocutionary force 'F' to the hearer in the relationship between the word and the world (cf. Searle 1969:47). For example, the statement, 'I claim to do something' F(p), is made under certain social rules to create a social reality inappropriate circumstances. The speaker's claims pertain to the illocutionary point of the communicative action, which creates a new reality in the world by urging the hearer to perform a certain action in a real-life situation.

The second usage is 'claiming that ', which Feinberg (1980:150) calls 'propositional claiming' as opposed to 'performative claiming', that is, 'making claim to'. 'Claiming that one has a right is another sort of thing one can do with language, but it is not the sort of doing that characteristically has legal consequences' (Feinberg 1980:150). In short, 'claiming that' simply refers to the content of a claim or an assertion of propositional meaning, which presents some state of affairs or informative fact as true or false. Feinberg (1980) explains that:

I can claim, for example, that you, he, or she has certain rights, or that Julius Caesar once had certain rights; or I can claim that certain statements are true, or that I have certain skills, or accomplishments, or virtually anything at all. I can claim that the earth is flat. What is essential to claiming that is the manner of assertion. (p. 150)

According to Feinberg, 'claiming that' is a propositional claiming; therefore, no legal force can be exercised and it has no legal consequences. We can recall the example by Feinberg (1980:150) mentioned above that says, 'If Smith owes Jones five dollars, only Jones can claim the five dollars as his own '. Similarly, Feinberg adds that, 'Anyone can claim, of course, that this umbrella is yours, but only you can actually claim the umbrella' (Feinberg 1980:150). For Feinberg, 'making a claim' to something has legal force in relation to legal rights, while 'claiming that' is a certain content of a claim as a simple informative fact that has no power in everyday life.

Feinberg's view is similar to Austin's locutionary concept in SAT. The locutionary act is the performance of the act of saying something that presents itself as a proposition containing an informative fact that is true or false. This is closely linked to the surface of the utterance in terms of the propositional element or meaning such as vocabulary and grammar, which demonstrates what has been said or written. At the locution level, the content of the claim no longer has any influence on the hearer because the locutionary act merely refers to propositional meanings, but it has no power to do something to or have a particular effect on the hearer (cf. Searle 1969:31). Thus, as Feinberg has argued, 'claiming that' as propositional claiming has no force that can be exercised.14

However, when we consider the word of claim used in everyday life from a language perspective, it is hard to imagine a claim that cannot exercise any power.15 This implies that the word assertion itself has the power to do something. According to Searle (1968:148), the locutionary and the illocutionary acts cannot be separated from each other because no utterance and its meaning are completely 'force-neutral'. It means that a propositional act cannot take place alone, as it is always performed together with an illocutionary act, which means every locutionary act has an illocutionary act because of its inherent linguistic nature. Based on the linguistic characteristics, 'the illocutionary force indicator shows how the proposition is to be taken' (Searle 1969:30). Therefore, 'claiming that' is not only a propositional claiming, but it is also a performative claiming that has the power to be exercised because language itself is a performative act.

The third usage is 'having a claim'. Feinberg (1980:151) considers the idea of 'having a claim' not in the verb 'to claim' but in the substantive 'a claim'. It is closely linked to the sense of possessions within a society such as a form of moral conduct or entitlement.16 Even though Feinberg (1980) does not mention these terms directly, for him, the thought of 'having a claim' can be regarded as 'having a right', as a practical synonym which reflects humanism (human dignity):

Even if there are conceivable circumstances in which one would admit rights diffidently, there is no doubt that their characteristic use and that for which they are distinctively well suited, it to be claimed, demanded, affirmed, insisted upon. They are especially sturdy objects to 'stand upon', a most useful sort of moral furniture. Having rights, of course, makes claiming possible; but it is claiming that gives rights their special moral significance. This feature of rights is connected in a way with the customary rhetoric about what it is to be a human being. Having rights enables us to 'stand up like men', to look others in the eye, and to feel in some fundamental way the equal of anyone. (p. 151)

Feinberg's (1980:151) argument is that 'having a claim consists in being in a position to claim, that is, to make claim or claim that'.17 This implies that anyone can make or have a claim, a valid claim as a human being in a society where they belong and have a moral (legal) status. What then makes it possible for one to move from 'having a right' to 'exercising a right' in our daily lives? Every person has a right to make claims as a human being, but not every person exercises that right. One person may have the power to claim his or her rights, while another lacks the power to claim his or her own rights. Where does this distinction come from, that is, one's moral power and moral status according to social rules in a certain society, which is able to protect one's rights or the recognition to claim the rights? For example, by law, most adults have a right to vote in a general democratic society and can exercise that right as real power or moral force to claim the given right and to express their opinions. Even if they are physically disabled, they have the right to vote and to exercise that right if they can go to the polls and cast the ballot by themselves. However, people who have been convicted legally cannot vote or exercise their right in this manner in certain societies.

Even though they have the physical power to go to the polls and cast their vote, they are deprived of their rights to vote in prison through moral (legal) power. Crowe (1978) explains the importance of moral power as follows:

A man's right to life can be described as his moral power to claim or demand that no one takes his life away. Normally, of course, a man is able to support this claim by physical force; he may repel an attack, using physical force to fight off his attacker. But we would easily recognize that the ability to fight off an attack is not the basis for his right to life. A champion boxer or a trained commando may be well able to use physical means to defend his life. But a handicapped or otherwise defenceless person, an infant, an old person, one who is paralysed for example, although unable physically to defend himself, has every bit as much a right to life as the strong man. What both the weak and the strong have in common is the moral power (that is the right). And this moral power is far more important that the difference in their physical strength. (pp. 4-5)

Such moral power can be regarded as illocutionary acts F(p) because it comes from the institutional facts and constitutive rules of society and places one in a position to claim, that is, to engage in a performative act. In other words, moral acts have moral power F(p) where the variable 'F' stands for the illocutionary force and shows devices as values and 'p' expresses the content of moral rules in certain social conventions (cf. Searle 1969:31). Moral power implies both the pattern of behaviour and the illocutionary acts such as 'a claim' C(p), which produces meaning or meaningful action of rights in accordance with social rules through illocutionary acts and according to the intended perlocutionary acts. For instance, we can apply moral power (moral illocutionary acts) 'F(p)' to the case of voting, that is, 'We make (F) a claim, that is, having a claim to a right to vote (p)'. This can be represented as 'We have moral power F(p)', which from the perspective of secure political voting system is neither simply 'p' nor simply 'F' but 'F(p)'. It demonstrates that the expression of a proposition of ethical or political norm becomes a certain action through illocutionary force and that moral power anticipates exercising voting rights as having a claim.

To sum up, although Feinberg recognises different forms of claiming in everyday life, his view of rights as claims actually refers to a kind of 'performative claiming' through illocutionary acts. It means that the language of rights as claims is the performance of an action, which shows that speaking a claim ('make a claim to something' or 'claim that' or 'have a claim') implies a performative action that is taken to claim rather than a specific state of affairs or set of facts. This linguistic feature of rights as claims in its actual usage in appropriate circumstances reflects non-verbal behaviours behind the use of language in social constructions - how to do things with words when we utter a claim. Thus, a claim as a performative act attains a certain intended effect by the speaker (perlocutionary act) who makes a claim to something through the illocutionary force in the hearer or society. Accordingly, the language of rights as claims shows how rights are ultimately produced in a society, how rights are exercised by one who makes a claim and what effect it is expected to have beyond simply stating the meaning of rights in real-life situations.

Human rights and the kingdom of God

Human rights are realised only in the context of social reality because social reality operates on rules, norms and customs that bestow duties and responsibilities as well as certain kinds of rights on people to enable them to live a good life. This consideration relates to the question, 'What makes a truly good human being in a society?' What then is the correlation between human rights and the kingdom of God? Are rights limited to human societies alone? As we have noted earlier, the kingdom of God refers to God's reign, as it points directly to God's self (France 2007:271), the Word of God. The Word of God continually works in the believers through the Holy Spirit, which is closely linked to the presence of the kingdom of God as a reality in the world. God's kingdom takes place in the context of human response to life in the present so that human action is connected to the kingdom of God. It does not operate in some removed location, rather it is where we live right now - the present (Wright 1996:202, 2007:25). In other words, the presence of the kingdom of God can be seen as a social reality in the present life, which implies that it relates to human rights according to the Word of God. It connects with a particular Christian pattern of behaviour that seeks the good and the purpose of being human (humanity or humanness).

According to Guroian (2005:43), 'good and the telos of the human being, who is created in the image and likeness of God', may be considered to participate in and be in communion with the Divine Life, which implies human rights. Similarly, Wolterstorff (2008:317, 350) argues that as the image of God, human nature resembles God's nature, but it also has inherent rights. However, human rights do not arise from human beings as creatures, but from God's nature as the likeness of God, which is found in human nature.18

The issue of what virtue (value, good and purpose) means to human beings or in human behaviour has to do with the search for the origin of human rights in the image of God as the ethical identity of the moral agent. Stated differently, it means that aspects of virtue ethics can be considered to cohere in terms of the ethical identity of the moral agent through God (to be precise, God's locutionary action). Virtue ethics focuses on the person or community performing the action as the moral agent because human character is reflected in human actions through God at the locutionary level. God's locutionary act is the performance of an act of saying something that presents itself at the level of saying something as a propositional element and that describes a state of affairs, facts or informative facts as God's nature (identity), namely, 'God is love'. It indicates the content of what God has said in relation to the people in the believing community as God's speech act. This consideration naturally addresses the questions: 'What am I?' 'What kind of person am I going to be?' 'What kinds of qualities make me become a good person?'. Hence, it is crucial to see human rights as God's locutionary action in relation to aspects of Christian virtue because human rights are reflected in human actions in a society and according to the Word of God at the locutionary level, which shows God's nature of love. God's locutionary action as God's nature of love (the image of God) represents the content of what God said to the people of God in relation to the basic moral identity with human rights (human being) as God's speech act. It means that the love of God is the foundation of human rights through which we can live to realise human virtue with others in the present life.

In this regard, God's locutionary action leads us to know 'who we are' and 'how to live', but, at the same time, it shows that God is love. As children of God, therefore, Christians should resemble the God of love who is central to the formation of human rights as a certain moral identity and specific conduct in the present for people and the kingdom of God through God's locutionary action. Christians should imitate the image of God at the locutionary level having an obligation and a responsibility to God (God's kingdom) and others (society), and enjoying the freedom given in God as human beings, that is, human rights. One commits himself or herself to moral conduct to exercise human rights with a particular attitude and purpose towards God's kingdom and human beings in the world by expressing love to God and people through God's locutionary action. That is to say, those who have human rights should always enjoy the freedom19 of God as the people of God and fulfil their responsibilities and duties in their daily lives for the sake of the kingdom.

Specifically, the above point represents a type of promissory covenant in which God has obligations to perform through the illocutionary force and according to its intended perlocutionary effect. However, human beings also have corresponding rights or claims to that covenant. God's locutionary act towards believers through the illocutionary force entails God's self-devotion and responsibility under an obligation to do something to fulfil the Word of God, but it also requires an appropriate response from believers. The illocutionary force in what God said to the people of God can be seen as God's self-involving activity because it already contains the commitment to do something between God and the people of God in the biblical promise. It naturally produces a particular intended effect on the people of God in accordance with the Word of God and in the context of the kingdom as a certain ethical pattern of behaviour. This demonstrates that the promissory language in God's illocutionary force is closely linked to human rights, which do something as ethical responses to God's locutionary action in believers' lives. In responding to God's promise, human rights show us what is essential to true humanity as God bestowed upon us in creation, reflecting, from a Christian perspective, on the kingdom of God (Allen 1974:131-132). Allen (1974) notes that:

To speak of rights in these relationships, though, is not at all to compromise God's sovereignty, but to express it, because the rights that reflect what it is truly to be a person and therein a child of God are the expression of how God in his sovereign will has bound himself in steadfast love toward his creatures. The Christian understanding of God and man, far from being contradictory to the concept of moral rights belonging to persons, is inseparably connected with it. (p. 132)

The following statement in 2 Peter 1:4-7 is a good example of a biblical text that alludes to what contemporary social ethics may term as human rights in terms of Christian virtue. Like Wolterstorff (2008:317, 350), as we have seen before, human rights, human nature projects the image of God as inherent rights. It means that human rights do not arise from human beings, but from God's nature in the relationship between God and people. Thus, it shows that the image of God relates God's promise to the people of God in the present world as moral conduct:

Thus, he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. (2 Pet 1:4-7, [author's own italics])

Accordingly, in the context of a promise between God and the people of God, God's promise is to perform a speech act of certain implied behaviour or commitment that would be determined as a reality in the believers through the illocutionary act to fulfil the image of God in them. This performance of the action in the force of what God said and did for the people of God brings about some response in accordance with God's intention that believers are to be partakers of God's nature with rights in terms of virtue. Consequently, through the illocutionary force, the action can have the intended perlocutionary effect on the people of God and produce virtues such as goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love, as forms of human rights through God's self-involving activity.



This article examined the characteristics of the language of human rights and its use in public life from the perspective of SAT. It suggested that by means of a SAT approach, the presence of the kingdom of God reflects human rights. The kingdom of God refers to God's reign, as it points directly to God's self, the Word of God. The Word of God continually works in the believers through the Holy Spirit, which is closely linked to the presence of the kingdom of God as a reality in the world.

Human rights are realised only in social reality; this is because social reality contains rules, norms and customs. More precisely, human rights rely upon the institutional facts and the constitutive rules, which govern human behaviour because it applies to social rules (virtue), meaning the collective intent within a society.

Speaking about human rights (the language of human rights) mirrors social virtue (for Christian, the Word of God) in everyday life; it can be counted as a series of constitutive rules in terms of meaning and illocutionary acts which are performed following these sets of constitutive rules in a certain circumstance. In this sense, the language of human rights performs a speech act of implied behaviour or commitment that is determined by non-verbal or verbal conduct. It refers to who I am or what I ought to do in a society according to public rules. It defines the patterns of behaviour based on the constitutive rules as the illocutionary force.



Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.



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Anna Cho

Received: 10 Jan. 2019
Accepted: 02 May 2019
Published: 30 July 2019



1. In this article, the kingdom of God is our life now, and it refers to God's speech act.
2. For more information about SAT, see Cho (2019:73-134); Cho and Forster (2017:1-12).
3. For more information on human rights, see Griffin 2008.
4. Martin and Nickel (1980:166-167) reason that every duty entails a right, and every right a duty. Feinberg (1980:143, 148-149) notes in 'The Nature and Value of Rights' that the so-called 'doctrine of the logical correlativity of rights and duties' claims 'that (i) all duties entail other people's rights and (ii) all rights entail other people's duties
When a person has a legal claim-right to X, it must be the case (i) that he is at liberty in respect to X, i.e. that he has no duty to refrain from or relinquish X, and also (ii) that his liberty is the ground of other people's duties to grant him X or not to interfere with him in respect to X. Thus, in the sense of claim-rights, it is true by definition that rights logically entail other people's duties. The paradigmatic examples of such rights are the creditor's right to be paid a debt by his debtor, and the landowner's right not to be interfered with by anyone in the exclusive occupancy of his land. The creditor's right against his debtor, for example, and the debtor's duty to his creditor, are precisely the same relation seen from two different vantage points, as inextricably linked as the two sides of the same coin'.
5. When human rights are not equally shared (by virtue of society's institutional facts and constitutive rules) by all people, we call this phenomenon discrimination, which violates human rights. Rights must bring proper obligations and responsibilities to social rules; society also has obligations to keep the rights of the people.
6. According to Brandt (1959:433-436), rights and duties are opposite sides of the same coin, that is, A's right against B and B's duty to A. Searle (2010:177-178) also maintains that 'rights are always rights against somebody': 'If X has a right against Y, Y has an obligation to X. And what we think of in the United States as basic rights, such as the right of free speech, are usually rights against the government
1. For all x, x has a right R (x does A) implies 2. There is some y such that x has R against y. And that implies 3. Y has an obligation to x to allow [not to interfere with, etc.] (x does A)'. However, I do not agree with his definition of rights, but follow McCloskey's (1965:118) explanation that the distinct features of rights are always rights to something, not rights against something: 'My right to life is not a right against anyone. It is my right and by virtue of it, it is normally permissible for me to sustain my life in the face of obstacles. It does give rise to rights against others in the sense that others have or may come to have duties to refrain from killing me, but it is essentially a right of mine, not an infinite list of claims, hypothetical and actual, against an infinite number of actual, potential, and as yet non-existent human beings Similarly, the right of the tennis club member to play on the club courts is a right to play, not a right against some vague group of potential or possible obstructors'.
7. Searle's understanding (2010:181) of the relationship between human being and human right is that 'in the formula X counts as Y in context C, the Y term is "human being"; so if you qualify as human being, you are automatically guaranteed human rights'.
8. For Searle, 'Language is the basic form of public deontology, and I am claiming that in the full sense that involves the public assumption of irreversible obligations, there is no such deontology without language. I am now arguing that once you have language, it is inevitable that you will have deontology because there is no way you can make explicit speech act performed according to the conventions of a language without creating commitments' (Searle 2010:82).
9. Human rights F(p) can be seen as claims C(p) or promises Pr(p) in a certain society from the perspective of SAT.
10. Searle (2010:148) points out that, 'Power is an ability or capacity, but the exercise of power, as power, is always an intentional act'.
11. According to Newlands (2004:129), 'One of the earliest theological discussions of human rights is to be found in Alan Falconer's collection Understanding Human Rights. In an essay on 'Christian Faith and Human Rights', Jürgen Moltmann sees the Reformed emphasis as being on human dignity through man's creation in the image of God, the Lutheran emphasis on a correspondence between Christian life in the sphere of faith and human rights in the sphere of the world, and the Roman Catholic emphasis on the analogy between nature and grace, in which grace illuminates the dignity of man in nature. Moltmann identifies another starting point in the experience of humanity, in a liberation theology context. The discussion has been taken forward by Max Stackhouse and others'.
12. Here, human rights and the language of human rights (or rights) can be regarded as the same.
13. Feinberg is not alone in arguing that human rights are claims, but he is probably one of the well-known scholars on the study of rights from a linguistic viewpoint. He employs the terms performative claiming and propositional claiming. These are very similar to Austin's illocutionary concept of SAT and its character actually lies in the illocutionary force and action. However, he does not talk about SAT, and I cannot find any comment on or reference to any of the mainline SAT theorists when I read this article. Thus, I will consider Feinberg's main idea from the perspective of SAT, and revise and supplement it in order to support my argument.
14. If language has any effect on the hearer, the hearer should respond not only on the locutionary level, but also on the illocutionary level.
15. Feinberg (1980:150) insists that, 'One can assert without even caring very much whether anyone is listening, but part of the point of propositional claiming is to make sure people listen'. For him, the aim of propositional claiming is to pay attention to the people who make the claim. However, attention (listen) is not simply about hearing; the hearer needs to do something such as a specific attitude or action as a proper response to the speaker's saying because of the linguistic features of the word, claim. Thus, Feinberg's argument that the purpose of the assertion is to make sure people listen is obviously contradictory. A better way to say this would be, 'the point of performative claiming is to make sure people listen'.
16. McClosky rejects Feinberg's argument that rights are claims. He insists that rights are entitlements because a right is not a claim in itself. He illustrates his view thus: 'My legal right to marry consists primarily in the recognition of my entitlement to marry and to have my act recognised. It indirectly gives rise to claims on others not to prevent me so acting, but it does not primarily consist in these claims' (McCloskey 1965:116). However, Wasserstrom (1979:10) regards rights and claims as practically synonymous in the following statement: 'Perhaps the most obvious thing to be said about rights is that they are constitutive of the domain of entitlements. They help to define and serve to protect those things concerning which one can make a very special kind of claim- a claim of right'. In fact, McClosky's view closely follows Feinberg's notion of having a claim.
17. Therefore, 'If this suggestion is correct it shows the primacy of the verbal over the nominative forms. It links claims to a kind of activity and obviates the temptation to think of claims as things, on the model of coins, pencils, and other material possessions which we can carry in our hip pockets' (Feinberg 1980:151).
18. Many scholars link human rights with the image of God. See Blank (1979:27), Aubert (1986:139-144), Carroll (1987:148), Kasper (1990:148-166) and Ruston (2004:40-61).
19. From the perspective of SAT, we can see the presence of the kingdom as a social reality (rules, norms and custom) which often has the form of 'X counts Y in context C' as constitutive rules, and not 'Do X' or 'If Y does X' as regulative rules. In this sense, social rules seem to have autonomy, but both constraints and freedom always go with autonomy.




Distinguishing the virtuous city of Alfarabi from that of Plato in light of his unique historical context



Ishraq Ali; Mingli Qin

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dalian University of Technology China, Dalian, China





There is a tendency among scholars to identify Alfarabi's political philosophy in general and his theory of the state in particular with that of Plato's The Republic. Undoubtedly Alfarabi was well versed in the philosophy of Plato and was greatly influenced by it. He borrows the Platonic concept of the philosopher king and uses it in his theory of the state. However, we argue that the identification of Alfarabi's virtuous city with that of Plato's The Republic is an inaccurate assessment as it involves overlooking Alfarabi's unique religiopolitical context. Alfarabi was a Muslim political philosopher, and the present article intends to understand Alfarabi's theory of the state in light of his historical context. The article shows that, viewed through the prism of Islamic religion and political history, Alfarabi's virtuous city seems distinct from that of Plato's The Republic.

Keywords: Alfarabi; Plato; the Republic; Virtuous city; Utopia; Religion; Politics.




The Homo sapiens' need for association has long been acknowledged as a fundamental truth. The inherent tendency to form an association is the fundamental characteristic that distinguishes man qua man from animals on one hand and God on the other. However, the search for an ideal mode of association is as old as the history of human association. Dissatisfaction at the social order has prompted the thinkers over centuries to seek an ideal sociopolitical arrangement that can serve as a panacea for all the human problems. Abu Nasr Alfarabi's Mabadi Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadhila [Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City] and Plato's The Republic are two such works that claim to contain the model of an ideal city which can ensure the ultimate human perfection and happiness.1

There is a tendency among scholars to relate Alfarabi's political philosophy in general and his theory of the state in particular to that of Plato, especially of The Republic.2 One of the most prominent of such scholars is Fakhry (2002:vii) who is of the opinion that Ara is 'inspired by Plato's Republic'. Similarly, Walzer (1991:779) understands that Alfarabi relies on Aristotle for his theoretical philosophy, but 'in political science he preferred to follow Plato's Republic and Laws'. He (Walzer 1985:10) suggests that 'the political section' of Ara is mainly based on an extinct 'commentary on Plato's Republic' that might have been 'written in the sixth century A.D.'. Pines (1963:lxxxvi) in the introduction to his translation of Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed comments that 'Alfarabi's position, as far as political philosophy is concerned, is largely Platonic'. Rosenthal (1958:114) also acknowledges that Alfarabi has 'drawn upon' Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, but considers his political philosophy as mainly influenced by Plato. Similarly, Marmura (2005:398) argues that Alfarabi's metaphysics, epistemology and psychology are largely Aristotelian and Neoplatonic, while his theory of the state is Platonic. There is no doubt that the major works of Plato, including The Republic, were available to Alfarabi and he was fully conversant with them. He viewed the philosophy of Plato as the true philosophy and followed The Republic by treating 'the whole of philosophy proper within a political framework' in his major political writings, including Ara (Strauss 1945:358-359). Most importantly, he borrowed the Platonic idea of a perfect state ruled by a philosopher king. No one denies the Platonic influence on Alfarabi and there are certain obvious Platonic elements in his political philosophy in general and the theory of the state in particular, but the question that deserves consideration is how much Alfarabi's virtuous city and its philosopher king resembles that of Plato's The Republic?

Although the political thought of Alfarabi is extensively investigated in relation to its Greek ancestry, very few systematic attempts are made to understand it in light of its historical context. There are some scholars, such as Tabatabai (1994:121), Al-Jabri (2000:236) and Fairahi (2003:326), who understand the virtuous city of Ara as a product of a reaction to the sociopolitical crisis of Alfarabi's time, the Abbasid era. However, the sociopolitical crisis of Alfarabi's time is a small part of the broad religiopolitical context that spanned around three centuries prior to Alfarabi. It starts with the religion Islam and the unification of spiritual and political authority in one person, Muhammad, who established the city-state of Medina, a model for Muslims till this day. The present article intends to understand Alfarabi's theory of the state in light of its broader religiopolitical context and shows that, viewed through the prism of the peculiar historical context, Alfarabi's utopia seems distinct from that of Plato's The Republic.


Alfarabi's historical context

Because Islam, like Judaism and unlike Christianity, was fashioned in a lawless desert, the revelations became the only and exclusive law of the Muslims covering spiritual as well as temporal and political matters (Melamed 2003:3). Thus, we see a unification of spiritual and political authority in Islam as Muhammad was not only the spiritual but also the political leader of the Muslims. He established the city-state of Medina and Muslims, even to this day, revere and treat the Medina state under the leadership of Muhammad as an ideal, a model to follow and a kind of utopia that is dreamt of.

The first problem that the Muslim polity faced after the death of Muhammad was related to succession. Quran and the words and actions of the prophet were the two sources of guidance for the Muslims after the death of Muhammad, but both contained no explicit provision about succession. Thus, the first conflict in Islam, the religiopolitical unity, was not 'about the nature of the divine, but about who should lead and how the leader should be appointed' (Black 2011:14-15). The conflict divided Muslims into Sunni and Shia, a division that exists even today and stemmed from a difference of opinion on the criteria for the selection of caliph.

The companions of Muhammad chose Abu Bakr as his successor and the first caliph of Muslims through consultation (Shura). However, a group of Muslims contested the legitimacy of Abu Bakr as the successor of Muhammad and regarded Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, as the rightful leader of the Muslims on the grounds that he had been designated by Muhammad himself as his successor. The supporters of Ali came to be known as Shias who hold that since God designates prophets, it is only God who designates the successors of a prophet and the people of the community have no right and no say in this matter and that Ali was designated by God through the prophet Muhammad as his successor. On the contrary, the majority group, Sunnis, in light of a number of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet), emphasise the importance of consultation as the proper procedure for making important community decisions including the selection of leader and argue that the Prophet nominated no successor as he expected the Muslims to choose one after him through consultation. Sunnis regard Abu Bakr (First), Umar ibn Khattab (Second), Uthman ibn Affan (Third) and Ali (Fourth) as the four legitimate and rightly guided caliphs of the Muslims in the given order, whereas Shia deny the legitimacy of the first three caliphs and consider Ali as the only legitimate successor of the Prophet Muhammad. According to the Shiite view, 'the Leadership (Imama) belonged to whichever of Muhammad's direct biological descendants had been designated by his predecessor' (Black 2011:16).

Although a difference of opinion existed among Muslims on the question of leadership, they were not involved in an armed confrontation until the first Muslim civil war (AD 656-661), known as the First Fitna, that took place after the assassination of Uthman and the nomination of Ali as the fourth caliph of Muslims. Muawiya Abu Sufyan (a relative of Uthman), Aisha bint Abu Bakr (the widow of Muhammad) and some of the companions of the Prophet, among whom Talhah ibn Ubaydullah and Zubayr ibn al-Awam were the most prominent, demanded vengeance on Uthman's death but seeing Ali reluctant, revolted against him. Ali defeated Aisha and her allied companions of the Prophet in the 'battle of the camel' (AD 656) near Basra and then turned towards Muawiya, who, at the battle of Siffin (AD 657), reached an agreement with Ali to settle the issue through arbitration. Some of Ali's hard-line Shia supporters, who were later known as Kharijites (those who walk out), broke away from him and condemned him 'for subjecting his entitlement to human arbitration' (Black 2011:16). It was one of these Kharijites who assassinated Ali in AD 661 which marks the end of the 'First Fitna'. Muawiya, who had already claimed caliphate in AD 660, was endorsed by Ali's son, Hasan, after his father's death. Although the Shia-Sunni rift continued, a kind of political stability was restored. However, Muawiya appointed his son, Yazid, as his successor, thereby converting caliphate into a hereditary office. In this way, he became the founder of Umayyad dynasty (AD 661-750).

The Muslim empire went through an unprecedented expansion during the Umayyad period and became one of the largest empires stretching from Spain in the west to the border of present-day China in the east. The ever existing threat of civil war and the huge size of the empire composed of people with diverse religious, social, cultural and political views asked for an absolutist strong centralised government, the model of which was provided by the Sasanian empire. The Umayyads developed patrimonial monarchy which was a blend of Arabo-Islamic ways with the 'monarchical ideas and practice taken over from conquered Iran' (Black 2011:18). The caliph's authority could neither be restricted nor questioned and he was allowed to assume the role of religious legislator, a role previously fulfilled by the Prophet.

From the very onset, Umayyad rule faced opposition. The conversion of caliphate into hereditary and dynastic rule was resisted especially by Hussain, the younger son of Ali, who rebelled and got killed by Yazid's forces in the battle of Karbala and Shia never accepted Umayyads as the legitimate rulers. Hereditary lineage with the ruler being the criterion for succession, some incompetent and ineligible persons, such as Yazeed, Yazeed II and Waleed II, became rulers who lacked the capacity and vision to effectively rule such a huge empire. They were more inclined towards pleasure and physical gratification as opposed to asceticism demanded by the religion. The Ulama (Religious Scholars) viewed them as impious and deviant from the path of Islam that earned them a negative sentiment and diminishing popularity among the masses. The multiple unsuccessful attempts to conquer Constantinople dented their military might. Above all, there was an obvious conflict between the Arab tribal ideas of authority and the concept of strong centralised authority necessary for keeping the huge empire intact. Equally damaging was the resentment among the non-Arab converts as they saw that Umayyads were more inclined towards Arabs and Arab ways and that they were ignored, deprived and unjustly treated in spite of the fact that they belonged to an older and superior culture than that of Arabs. There were a variety of religious and social schools of thought in the huge Umayyad empire, each with a different understanding of society and government with different political implications. These were some of the factors that ultimately led to the inevitable fall of Umayyads and the rise of Abbasids to power in AD 750.

Abbasids rose to power with a promise of harmony, concord, happiness, piety and just rule in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Because they claimed the legitimacy of their rule on the basis of their kinship to Muhammad, the Shia faction welcomed and supported them against Umayyads who did not belong to the family of the Prophet. Their slogan of reforms attracted those resentful of Umayyads' corruption and it was, in fact, a coalition of Shia, Persian Mawali (non-Arab Muslims) and Eastern Arabs that Abbasids built to oust Umayyads and install the Abbasid dynasty.

The Abbasid period is known for economic and intellectual vitality. Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid dynasty, became the world's economic and educational centre under Abbasids. The Arab merchants dominated trade by land and sea between the far west and far east. The Abbasid caliphs, particularly Harun al Rashid and his son al Mamun, patronised arts, sciences and the translation of works from other languages. The great scholars of the time gravitated to Baghdad where al Mamun established Bayt al-hikma (The House of Wisdom), a library-cum-institute that housed prominent Muslim and non-Muslim scholars who gathered, translated and expanded upon the works from other civilisations. By the time of Alfarabi (AD 870-950), most of the works of Plato, Aristotle and their late Greek commentators had been translated (Black 2011:57).

Although the Muslim empire thrived educationally and economically during Abbasid reign, those who expected a fundamental sociopolitical change met utter disappointment. The succession of al-Mansur as the second Abbasid caliph on the basis of hereditary lineage made it clear that the claimed revolution was nothing more than a replacement of one dynasty with another. The Abbasids who started as reformist revolutionaries not only adopted the autocratic ideas of the patrimonial monarchy of their predecessors, but took it to the next level and perfected it. Soon after coming to power they turned their backs on Shias, the allies who had supported them in the revolution, and tilted towards the majority Sunnis. However, they remained strongly connected to the Persian mawalis. The Persian ideas and practices dominated the Abbasid court and government. Al-Mamun aligned himself with the theologians, particularly Mutazilites, who professed the application of unaided reason to the religion, against the literalists, reporters and Ulama. He established Mihna, an inquisition aimed at forcing the government officials as well as religious leaders 'to accept his religious views and his authority in matters of religious ritual and doctrine' (Lapidus 1975:379). The Ulama and officials were tested and examined in Mihna and those who did not adhere to the Mutazili theology were subjected to severe punishments. The theology was poles apart from the contemporary popular religion and the caliph's adherence to it resulted in a division between the court and the people. The gap between the caliph and the people widened as caliphs surrounded themselves with officials and personal armies. Following the trend initiated by al-Mamun, the caliph al-Mutasim created a personal military force of slaves (Ghilman) that grew in strength and influence with the passage of time, resulting in anger and unrest in Baghdad that forced the caliph to shift the capital to Samarra in AD 836. The caliphs' guards gained strength to the extent that they started killing one caliph and replacing him with another. As the office of the caliph was getting weaker, the provincial governors (Emirs), from the time of al-Mamun onwards, were becoming economically and militarily independent. Although they recognised the Abbasid caliph, some of them, like the governor of Persia, established their own dynasties and ruled as kings.

With the continuously diminishing authority of caliph, the Muslim empire was disintegrating and different territories were breaking off from Abbasid rule. In the last attempt for integration, al-Radi created the position of Amir ul Umara (the Emir of Emirs/Chief Emir) for Iraq's governor, delegating him the supreme authority and control over all the other Emirs. However, the device meant for integration backfired and ended up in the hands of Buyids who used it as hereditary title and became the de facto rulers, leaving the caliph as a mere figurehead. By the first half of the 10th century, the Abbasid caliph was nothing more than a nominal religious figure without any effective authority. Alfarabi lived through the decline phase of the Abbasid rule, the time of disintegration, instability and chaos in the Muslim empire.


The virtuous city of Alfarabi and Plato

Alfarabi was a Muslim philosopher and there can be no doubt that he was fully aware of the three-centuries-old political history of Muslims till his time. The history that is, as we have seen, full of disasters, civil wars, brutal power struggles, incompetent rulers, disappointments for the people, disintegration and chaos. Evidently, all these ills stemmed from the absence of a coherent political philosophy, the failure of Muslims to find answers to the fundamental questions: who should rule and exercise authority; what should be the relation between the ruler and ruled; and what should they try to achieve through association. The political philosophy of Alfarabi, particularly his theory of virtuous city, can be seen as an answer to these questions. For the greater part of his life, Alfarabi lived in Baghdad, the capital of Abbasid caliphate. However, in AD 942, less than a decade before his death, he shifted to Aleppo and became a part of 'the Imami court of the Hamdanids', and it was here that 'he produced his major works on Politics' that contain his theory of virtuous association (Black 2011:61-62). His migration from the Abbasid's capital, joining the court in Aleppo and writing his political works there, have led some scholars to view his theory of the state as a protest against the Abbasid caliphate. While Alfarabi would have been really disappointed with the Abbasids, he would have been equally resentful of the sociopolitical condition of the Muslims before Abbasids and after Muhammad. More than a protest against the Abbasid caliphate, Alfarabi's theory of the state is a reaction to the whole disastrous Muslim political history after the death of Muhammad and a programme to revive the Medinan glory of Prophet Muhammad's time.

Alfarabi enumerates 12 qualifications for the ruler of his virtuous city: (1) soundness of body, (2) accurate understanding, (3) sharp memory, (4) intelligence and quick-wittedness, (5) eloquence, (6) love of 'learning and acquiring knowledge', (7) love of 'truth and truthful men', and hatred for 'falsehood and liars', (8) no cravings 'for food and drink and sexual intercourse', and 'aversion to gambling and hatred of the pleasures which these pursuits provide', (9) magnanimity, love of honour and detest for 'everything ugly and base', (10) no interest in money and 'other worldly pursuits', (11) love of 'justice and of just people', and hatred for 'oppression and injustice and those who practice them'; no stubbornness or reluctance if 'asked to do justice', but reluctance if 'asked to do injustice', and (12) bravery and firm resolve in doing the right thing (Alfarabi 1985:247-249). We can see that Alfarabi has incorporated in his list all the attributes of a ruler proposed by Plato in book VI of The Republic. However, there are three qualifications that are peculiar to his list: (1) soundness of body, (2) eloquence and (3) love of justice. These three characteristics drastically distinguish the ruler of Alfarabi from the philosopher king of Plato's The Republic. These are the prerequisites that must be present in a prospective ruler so that because of these characteristics he could be able to perform some specific functions as a ruler. Thus, connected to the three qualifications are three duties peculiar to the ruler of Alfarabi. Firstly, the prospective ruler must have a sound body so that he could be able 'to shoulder the tasks of war' as a ruler (Alfarabi 1985:247). Secondly, he should be eloquent and 'a good orator' so that, as a ruler, he could be 'able to rouse [other people's] imaginations by well-chosen words' (Alfarabi 1985:247). While distinguishing between religion and philosophy, Alfarabi argues that religion is the imitation of philosophy. It is the symbolic representation of the philosophical truth. The things that the philosopher knows, as they are, through demonstration, others know their symbolic representation (religion) through imagination (Alfarabi 1985:279). Thus, in Alfarabi, the ruler should use his eloquence and the skill of oratory to arouse people's imaginations and preach them religion. Thirdly, the qualification of a ruler to love, support and do justice, but hate and abstain from doing injustice seems to highlight his role as a judge in the virtuous city.

Thus, unlike the philosopher king in Plato's The Republic, the ruler of Alfarabi's virtuous city is a warrior, preacher of religion and judge. In Plato's The Republic, the philosopher king does not physically participate in war as this duty is exclusively assigned to the guardians of the city. The role of Plato's philosopher king is restricted to the guidance and supervision of the guardians. Alfarabi identifies the 'war' as holy war (Jihad), a concept obviously unknown to Plato (Alfarabi 1952:113). Plato criticises rhetoric, whereas Alfarabi makes it one of the important conditions for a ruler. Moreover, in Plato, there is no mention of the role of the ruler as a judge.

Fakhry points out that, as Al-Mawardi suggests in his Political Ordinances (Al-Ahkam al Sultaniyah), the three qualifications (soundness of body, eloquence and love of justice) are the part of prerequisites 'specifically' for the office of caliph (Fakhry 2002:105). The first four caliphs, like Muhammad, had sound body, eloquence and love of justice, and they, as rulers, participated in the holy war, preached religion and acted as judge. So, more than a philosopher king, Alfarabi seems to be characterising a caliph after Muhammad as the ruler of his virtuous city. However, Alfarabi's calling the ruler of his virtuous city 'Imam' is meaningful. Scholars are of the opinion that Alfarabi most probably belonged to the Imami Shia faction of Islam which, as we have discussed, recognises Ali rather than the first three caliphs as the rightful successor of Muhammad. Although the first three caliphs before Ali and the two dynasties after him effectively ruled the Muslims as caliphs, Imami Shias recognise a separate line of twelve Imams starting from Ali as the true successors of Muhammad and the actual spiritual and political leaders of the Muslims. The eleventh of these Imams, Hasan al-Askari, died in AD 874, and Imamis believe that his successor, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi, the twelfth and final Imam, went into hiding which they call Ghaybat al-Sughra (Minor Occultation). According to Imamis, al-Mahdi communicated with his followers through his representatives during the minor occultation, but after the death of the last of these representatives in AD 941, the Imam went into permanent hiding (Ghaybat al-Kubra/Major Occultation), and that he would return when God wishes. They view al-Mehdi as a reflection of Muhammad's character, a messianic figure, a redresser of wrongs, who will return, revive the Muhammadan glory and fill the earth with peace and justice.3 Because Alfarabi lived and produced his writings during the hiding of the twelfth Imam, it seems probable that by calling his ruler 'Imam' he is referring to Imam Mehdi as the ruler of his utopian virtuous city.

In Plato as well as Alfarabi, it is the superior knowledge of the ruler that entitles him to the authority as ruler. The knowledge of Plato's philosopher king comes through unaided reason. He, in terms of the cave allegory, ascends to the world of ideas and gains the superior knowledge through reason. On the contrary, the source of Alfarabi's ruler knowledge is reason plus, most importantly, divine revelation (Wahy), associated not with the rational part of the soul but with the imaginative part. Unlike Plato's philosopher king, the ruler of Alfarabi's virtuous city is a philosopher prophet who receives divine revelations. Revelation as his source of knowledge differentiates him from the ruler of Plato's The Republic and associates him with the prophet Muhammad, rightly guided Sunni caliphs and Shia Imams who received guidance from God through revelation.4

The impact of Alfarabi's identification of his ruler with Muhammad, Shia Imams and Sunni caliphs can be seen in the sanctity and the elevated role that he assigns to his ruler in his virtuous city. In addition to the role as warrior, preacher and judge, Alfarabi (1985) makes the organisation, rise and the removal of any ill or deficiency of the city dependent on the ruler:

The ruler of this city must come to be in the first instance, and will subsequently be the cause of the rise of the city and its parts and the cause of the presence of the voluntary habits of its parts and of their arrangement in ranks proper to them; and when one part is out of order he provides it with the means to remove its disorder. (p. 235)

In The Republic, the violation of laws related to birth leads to the 'dissolution' of Plato's ideal city (Plato 1991:224-225). Alfarabi (1985:253), on the contrary, suggests that his virtuous city will perish after remaining kingless for a certain time. Thus, the perishing of Alfarabi's city, unlike that of Plato, is linked to the absence of its ruler, which is another instance of the elevated role and higher importance of the ruler in Ara owing to the religious connotations attached to him.

Now, turning towards the purpose of association, for Plato as well as Alfarabi, an association is characterised by the ultimate goal and purpose pursued through it. Although the satisfaction of the basic needs is the goal that gives birth to the human association, they agree that an association for the sole purpose of the fulfilment of basic needs is 'the city of necessity' distinguished from an ideal or perfect city. The end sought by Plato's ideal city is 'happiness':

In finding the city we are not looking to the exceptional happiness of any one group among us but, as far as possible, that of the city as a whole we are fashioning the happy city. (Plato 1991:98)

Alfarabi (1985:231), on the contrary, argues that his excellent city is a city 'in which people aim through association at co-operating for the things by which felicity in its real and true sense can be attained'. At first glance, it seems that Alfarabi has borrowed the purpose of association in his city from Plato. However, a closer look shows another picture. The qualification that he has added to 'felicity' points towards the distinction that he makes between true and presumed felicity. In 'The enumeration of the sciences', he (Alfarabi 2011:19) argues that things like honour, pleasure and wealth are mistakenly presumed by some to be felicity without being so. Unlike the presumed felicity, the true felicity can only come in the next life. True felicity is the highest perfection of the human soul 'where it is in no need of matter for its support, since it becomes one of the incorporeal things and of the immaterial substances and remains in that state continuously forever' (Alfarabi 1985:205-207). There are certain actions conducive for the attainment of true felicity which are known to the ruler. The people in the virtuous city of Alfarabi co-operate through association for carrying out those actions under the guidance of the ruler. As a result, they achieve true eternal felicity in the eternal afterlife. Thus, the virtuous city and the virtuous actions performed in it are means for the attainment of the ultimate goal in the afterlife. It seems the reflection of the Islamic principle that those who are pious and spend their short worldly life according to the commands of God would be rewarded with blessings, joy and happiness in the afterlife that would last forever.5 Muhammad belonged to the Quraysh tribe based in Mecca. Quran's criticism of their polytheistic religion and overindulgence in worldly gratifications antagonised the Quraysh and they started persecuting the Muslims. The basic purpose of Muhammad's and his followers' hijra (emigration) from Mecca and the establishment of the city-state of Medina was to provide the Muslims with a safe environment where they could freely perform their religious obligations and the virtuous actions specified by God through Muhammad that would ensure the ultimate eternal happiness in the afterlife. The Muslims emigrated and forsook their homes, properties, businesses and even families for a greater goal in the afterlife, which set the Islamic principle that the actual purpose of human existence in this world, individually as well as in a group, is not the worldly gains but ensuring the ultimate happiness in the afterlife. Although, with the passage of time, the Muslims who were once a small group of emigrants became a huge, rich and powerful empire, they degraded morally and spiritually. Their rulers, particularly Umayyads and Abbasids, who were criticised for their divergence from the Islamic notions, indulged in sensuous gratification and made the acquisition of pleasure, wealth and power, instead of happiness in the afterlife, their ultimate goal. Alfarabi's emphasis on the happiness in the afterlife as the actual 'felicity' and the real goal of association, most plausibly, is a criticism of the worldliness of these dynasties and a reminder of the Islamic norms and principles.

One of the major distinctions between Plato's and Alfarabi's theory of the state is that while Plato limits his utopia in size, Alfarabi depicts a universal utopia that encompasses the whole inhabitable world. Walzer rightly points out that the inspiration for Alfarabi's universal state does not seem to have come from a Greek source: 'the evidence for thinking in terms of a universal state is rather scarce in Greek literature', and it is also unconvincing to understand Alfarabi's world state as an influence of Alexander and his conquests (Walzer 1985:433). It is, however, important to note that the concept of the world state is not altogether absent in the Greek literature. While early Greek philosophers preferred to press the distinction between the Greeks and the barbarians and professed the superiority of the Greeks, the Stoics opposed the traditional Greek view and argued that all human beings are equal citizens of the world irrespective of their different geographical, racial or linguistic affiliations because they share the common humanity. This Stoic view is commonly known as cosmopolitanism.6 It is, however, difficult to argue that Alfarabi's universal state is inspired by Stoics' concept of cosmopolitanism as it cannot be ascertained that this Stoic concept even reached Alfarabi. The introduction of Greek philosophical thought to the medieval Muslim world is owed mainly to the extensive programme of the translation of Greek texts into Arabic that was carried out through the collaboration of Christian and Muslim scholars between the 8th and 10th centuries largely in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid caliphate.7 As a result of this translation movement, most of the works of Plato, Aristotle and their late Greek commentators had been translated into Arabic by the time of Alfarabi (Black 2011:57). However, as far as we know, there is no evidence that, by the time of Alfarabi, the Stoic text containing the concept of cosmopolitanism was translated into Arabic and made available to Alfarabi. Gerard Verbeke (1983) in his famous work, The Presence of Stoicism in Medieval Thought, challenges the traditional approach in which the Stoic influences in the medieval philosophical thought are ignored in favour of Platonic and Aristotelian influences. However, he did not trace the source of Alfarabi's universal state to Stoics' cosmopolitanism. Perhaps the most important indication of Alfarabi's lack of enough conversance with Stoicism is that there is only one instance of a reference to Stoics' philosophy in his corpus. In his short treatise, 'What ought to precede the study of Philosophy', he describes the Stoics as the 'people of the Stoa' whose teachings took place on a porch that was attached to the temple of Athens. He, however, does not even mention 'the name of the actual founder of the Stoic School, Zeno of Citium in Cyprus' (Fakhry 2002:15).

The Alfarabic concept of the world state, most plausibly, has Islamic roots. Islam treats the Muslims as one 'Ummah' (community) irrespective of their various geographical, cultural, linguistic, racial and national affiliations which are, according to the Quran, nothing more than a tool for recognising one another. The Quran asserts, 'Verily, this community of yours is on single community We have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another'.8 Islam is the bond that unites the Muslims wherever they are into one Ummah. Black (2011) summarises Muhammad's unique transformation of small scattered tribes into one international community:

When Muhammad and his followers forged a new umma, they brought into being at once a sense of Arab nationhood and a new kind of international community. For the first and only time in human history, the nation was transcended at the moment it was created Islam preached spiritual brotherhood plus an all embracing law, and universal political control to be achieved He [Muhammad] gave a rationale for seeing the Arabs as the chosen people, and giving them a mission to convert or conquer the world. He enabled them to achieve the transition simultaneously from polytheism to monotheism, and from tribalism to nationhood to internationalism. (pp. 9-10)

The expansion of Islam as a religion and as an empire, that the caliphs took seriously, can be seen as an attempt towards the actualisation of a Muslim world state, the rationale for which had been provided by Islam and the prophet. Although the Sunni caliphs conquered the major portion of the known world, they could not rule the 'whole inhabitable world'. Thus, it is not entirely convincing to understand Alfarabi's world state as a reference to the Muslim empire under Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The only account of the realisation of a Muslim world state, that was certainly known to Alfarabi and is agreed upon by Sunnis and Shia, is related to Imam Mehdi. There is a consensus among Muslim theologians, as it is supported by multiple ahadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), that Imam Mehdi will revive Islam in its actual form as it was at the time of Muhammad and establish a universal Islamic government over the whole world near the end of time and that he will fill the world with peace and prosperity after it is filled with injustice and tyranny. It is very plausible that by depicting a world state Alfarabi is referring to the promised universal Muslim world state under the rule of Imam Mehdi.

Disunity is certainly a major threat to the city of Plato. He understands economic interests and family loyalties as the possible sources of disunity in his city. To ensure the unity of the city and to neutralise the economic interests and family loyalties, he introduces the concept of communalism: the wives, the children, the parents and the property will belong to all the guardians 'in common' (Plato 1991:95-96, 136). The principle of common parents, wives, children and properties is established to avoid individuality and self-interest, eliminating the sense of 'your' and 'my', and replacing it with 'our'. However, it is important to note that Plato applies the concept of common property and common family to the ruling class only.9 It seems that Plato is interested in the unity of the ruling class only, and the working class is ignored altogether. Karl Popper (2002) highlights the issue in the following words:

Plato's best state is based on the most rigid class distinctions the problem of avoiding class war is solved, not by abolishing classes, but by giving the ruling class a superiority which cannot be challenged the ruling class alone is permitted to carry arms, it alone has any political or other rights, and it alone receives education as long as the ruling class is united, there can be no challenge to their authority, and consequently no class war the workers, tradesmen, etc., do not interest him (Plato) at all, they are only human cattle whose sole function is to provide for the material needs of the ruling class. Plato even goes so far as to forbid his rulers to legislate for people of this class, and for their petty problems the whole problem of preserving the state is reduced to that of preserving the internal unity of the master class the communism is confined to the ruling class, which alone must be kept free from disunion the stronger the feeling that the ruled are a different and an altogether inferior race, the stronger will be the sense of unity among the rulers. (pp. 51-53)

Alfarabi does not adhere to Plato's concept of communism as, understandably, there could be no place for such innovation in conservative Muslim religion and society. He, in fact, did not need communism to ensure the unity of his city as he had the religion that had served as a unifying force from the very beginning, partly through the Sharia encompassing almost all the aspects of life and partly through the rituals such as circumcision, pilgrimage and communal prayers that instilled a sense of belongingness to the group. However, he does rank order his city in the form of a hierarchy. He compares his city to a living organism in which different organs and parts perform the functions appropriate for them in a coordinated system that is subordinated to the ruling part. He (Alfarabi 1952:113) enumerates five ranks that constitute his city: (1) the most virtuous or excellent who are 'the wise, the intelligent and the prudent in great matters', (2) the interpreters who include 'orators, the eloquent, the poets, the musicians, the secretaries and the like', (3) the experts including 'the accountants, the geometers, the doctors, the astrologers and the like', (4) the fighting men which are 'the army, the guards and the like', (5) the rich 'who gain wealth in the city, such as farmers, herdsmen, merchants and the like'.

Walzer (1985:436-438) compares the first three ranks of Alfarabi's city to the class of guardians in The Republic that makes the structure of Alfarabi's city identical to the tripartite structure of Plato's city (guardians, the warriors or the auxiliaries, producers). However, the comparison is problematic as Alfarabi's first three ranks include accountants, doctors, musicians, poets and so on, and it is difficult to argue for Plato's willingness to include them in his class of guardians. It is obvious that Alfarabi's first, fourth and fifth ranks correspond to the guardians, the auxiliaries or warriors and the producers of Plato, respectively. Popper's (2002:51) argument that Plato is interested in the rulers only as he 'divides his ruling caste into two classes, the guardians and the auxiliaries, without elaborating similar subdivisions with the working class' is based on the grounds that 'the guardians are no separate caste, but merely old and wise warriors who have been promoted from the ranks of the auxiliaries'. A similar argument for Alfarabi's sole interest in the rulers cannot be made. Neither the fourth nor the second and third ranks of Alfarabi can be argued to be the subdivisions of the ruling class as there is no evidence in Alfarabi that his first rank is composed of the old and wise members of either the fourth rank or the second and the third ranks. On the contrary, it can be argued that the last four ranks of Alfarabi are the subdivisions of the caste of the ruled because the first rank represents the ruling class exclusively. Thus, while Plato is interested in the rulers only as he makes two subdivision of the ruling caste without considering similar subdivisions for the ruled, Alfarabi's subdivision of the ruled into four ranks without considering similar subdivisions for the ruling class can be interpreted as an indication of the importance he, unlike Plato, gives to the ruled in his city.

As mentioned earlier, Alfarabi compares his city with a living organism. As each and every organ of a body is equally important for the health and proper functioning of the body, each and every rank of the city is equally important for the health and proper functioning of Alfarabi's city. Alfarabi (1985:235-237) makes it the duty of the ruler to ensure the removal of any disorder in any part of the city regardless of its position in the hierarchy. Alfarabi (1985:235) acknowledges that people do have natural 'endowments' by birth that are 'unequal in excellence which enable them to do one thing and not another', but, for him, these natural endowments or hereditary lineage are not the sole criteria for inclusion in a specific rank of the city. The voluntary habits such as different arts that one can acquire are equally important. Plato's city is somewhat similar to the Abbasid caliphate in the rigid class distinction and the unchallengeable superiority of the ruling class. Because Alfarabi's city can be seen as a protest against the Abbasid caliphate, he could not adhere to Plato's view of class distinction, the unchallengeable superiority of the rulers and the miserable condition of the ruled.

Plato gets rid of the inferior ones and does not allow them into his city: the city takes a start by sending the people over the age of 10 out of the city; deformed and inferior children will be put to death (Plato 1991:139, 220). These measures are designed to obtain a pure specimen for the application of his programme. His scheme of training and education is designed exclusively for the guardians, and the common masses are ignored completely. The rulers' exclusive right to education manifests the superiority that Plato assigns to the ruling class. On the contrary, it also indicates that he is hopeless about the remedial impact of his programme on the imperfect ones. Although Alfarabi makes a distinction between the knowledge of a philosopher and the nonphilosophers, he, nonetheless, seeks perfection for 'all the people of the excellent city', and argues that all of them 'ought to' have the basic knowledge about everything (Alfarabi 1985:277-279). While Plato either excludes or expels the imperfect natures, Alfarabi's policy towards them seems to be that of reformation through the knowledge they can grasp which is religion, the symbolic imitation of philosophy. Undoubtedly, Alfarabi knew that it was the same remedy that had resulted in a revolution and reformed some of the most imperfect natures of the history through the hands of Muhammad, three centuries before him.



Alfarabi admired Plato and borrowed the idea of the philosopher king from him, but calling his theory of state Platonic seems an inaccurate assessment as it involves overlooking his rich historical context that contains its own unique model of utopia as well as dystopia and a programme for revival. Muslims deem the Prophet Muhammad a perfect ruler and the city-state of Medina, that he established, the perfect state, a utopia. However, the death of Muhammad was followed by sociopolitical degradation of the Muslims owing to the absence of a coherent political philosophy. Alfarabi's theory of the state is a programme for revival, a solution to the peculiar Muslim problem. Not only the problem that Alfarabi deals with, but also his suggested solution to the problem is peculiarly Islamic. Alfarabi was a Muslim philosopher and he did not need to look anywhere else for a solution as he had the example of a perfect city ruled by a perfect ruler in the form of the city-state of Medina ruled by Muhammad and the promised Muslim universal state ruled by Imam Mehdi, a reflection of Muhammad's character, a promised messiah who will revive the Muslim glory. After a careful examination of Alfarabi's theory of the state in light of its historical context, we saw that the ruler of his virtuous city resembles the Muslim perfect rulers and differs considerably from Plato's philosopher king in The Republic in characteristics, functions, source of knowledge and role in the city. In addition to that, eternal felicity in the afterlife as the ultimate purpose of association, the concept of universal utopia and suggesting reformation of the imperfect souls through religious education instead of abandoning them are other factors that identify Alfarabi's theory of state with the Islamic concept of state and distinguish it from that of Plato's The Republic.



Competing interest

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Author contributions

The research was carried out by I.A. under the supervision of Prof. M. Qin.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.



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Ishraq Ali

Received: 25 Dec. 2018
Accepted: 22 May 2019
Published: 14 Aug. 2019



1. There are multiple writings of Alfarabi, such as The Political Regime and The Attainment of Happiness, that deal with the Platonic theme of the best city and contend for a comparison with the works of Plato. However, the present article mainly focuses on Alfarabi's Mabadi Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadhila and Plato's The Republic. Other works of Alfarabi are occasionally referred to for the explanatory purpose. Abu Nasr Alfarabi and Mabadi Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadhila are hereafter referred to as Alfarabi and Ara, respectively.
2. Political philosophy deals, at the most abstract level, with the fundamental questions related to the communal or social life of human beings. It tries to find answers to the fundamental questions such as who should exercise authority; what are the principles for the justification of political authority; what should be the rights and duties of the members of the society and why; what is the nature, origin and purpose of government and what goals a political community should try to achieve and why. Explaining the meaning of the word 'political' itself is also one of the important concerns of political philosophy. The topics that the political philosophy discuss include justice, freedom, liberty, utopia, human nature, rights, duties, social control, peace, war and so on. Some philosophers incorporate metaphysics, economics or ethics in their political philosophy. The theory of the state of a particular philosopher, on the other hand, is a framework for the implementation of his political philosophy.
3. Sunnis also recognise the coming of Mehdi, a messiah, near the end of time. However, while Imamis understand that Imam Mehdi is in hiding, Sunnis believe that he is not yet born.
4. It is important to point out that the revelations received by the prophet Muhammad are distinguished from those of Imams, caliphs or other pious people. The revelations sent to Muhammad included guidance from God on the matters of Din [religion] as well as Dunya [world]. However, religious scholars argue that no addition in the religion is possible after the Quran's explicit announcement of religion's completion during the lifetime of Muhammad. Therefore, after Muhammad, people, on the basis of their piety, can receive guidance from God only about the worldly matters that do not make any change to the religion. This guidance is ranked as an inferior subdivision of the wahy received by the Prophet Muhammad and recognised as Ilham, Wahy Tasdeed, Wahy Tadeeb and so on.
5. Quran 29:64, 31:8-9, 16:32, 89:27-30, 13:23-24.
6. For a detailed discussion on cosmopolitanism see Nussbaum 1997; Trepanier and Habib 2011; Lane 2014.
7. For details about the translation movement see Gutas 1998.
8. Quran 21:92, 49:13.
9. Plato divides his city into three classes: the guardians (the rulers), the warriors or the armed auxiliaries of the ruler(s) and the working class. But as Popper (2002:51) argues that because the rulers are, in fact, the wise and old warriors who are promoted from the ranks of the auxiliaries, there are actually only two classes in Plato's city: the armed and educated rulers and the unarmed and uneducated ruled.

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Mission awakening in the Dutch Reformed Church: The possibility of a fifth wave?



Christo R. Benadé; Cornelius J.P. Niemandt

Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





The Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) had a strong missionary DNA since the planting of the church. This missionary focus and fervour, however, ebbed and flowed during the history of the church. Saayman described that the mission upsurges in the DRC in four waves or 'periods of extraordinary mission endeavour'. The current research aimed to develop this theory through a literature study on the sociopolitical context and the developments in the ecclesiology and missiology of the DRC since the planting of the church up to 2013. The research found strong evidence to define a fifth wave. The fifth wave was influenced by contextual changes (e.g. a secularising, a more integrated multicultural society and the realisation of the needs of the poor) and loss of influence and money by the DRC. Furthermore, the growth in the church's missional identity can be seen in the following aspects: the influence of theologians like Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch; a belief that mission is not something the church does but something the church is; a shift from a Christocentric theology to a Trinitarian theology; a holistic view of salvation; a commitment to the local context of the congregation and a focus on bringing healing to their local communities; and lastly, the success of the Gestuurde Gemeentes network and, more recently, the Mission Shaped Ministry training.

Keywords: Dutch Reformed Church; Congregational studies; Missional church; Missional ecclesiology; Missional identity; Wave of mission.




To understand the current missional impetus of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), it is useful to look back on the mission history of the DRC. The DRC has had strong missionary inclination since the planting of the church (Du Toit 1984:618). This missionary focus and fervour ebbed and flowed during the history of the church.

Saayman (2007) describes that the mission upsurges in the DRC in four waves or 'periods of extraordinary mission endeavour' (Saayman 2007:9). This research will suggest a fifth wave in the missionary focus of the DRC. In doing this, a literature study on the sociopolitical context and the development in the ecclesiology and missiology of the DRC since the planting of the church up to 2013 was conducted. The results of this study will be given at a high level of abstraction. More detail will be given in the discussion of a possible fifth wave.


A first wave (1779-1834): The Early Dutch Reformed Mission

In discussing the missionary upsurges, account will be taken of the sociopolitical contexts of these upsurges. Saayman (2003:195) emphasises the close link between the sociopolitical context and the development in a church's missiology. The sociopolitical dimension of DRC's missiology is prominent in the racial categories as well as the colonial and political agendas that influenced its development (Saayman 2007:7).

Sociopolitical context

The Cape Colony was changing from a refreshment post to a colonial society. This led to many changes in the administration, population and economy of the Cape. Economic changes were the most important drivers of the development of the Cape Colony (Saayman 2007:16).

Population growth and the consequent need for more land and resources led to the trekboer phenomenon. The trekboere were colonial farmers who settled further away from the capital. There were serious administrative shortcomings in dealing with the needs of these farmers, as well as a lack of schools and churches to serve them. The administration in the Cape was designed to deal with a refreshment station, not a growing colony. All these factors led to a growing rift between the trekboere, the more prosperous bourgeoisie (administration officials and business men) in Cape Town and the colonial administration (Saayman 2007:18-19). In Cape Town, the richer bourgeoisie came under the influence of the Dutch Patriot movement, a resistance movement against the Dutch rulers in line with the European revolutionary spirit. The trekboere were influenced by the French Revolution, which was carried inland by discharged French soldiers who were acting as temporary teachers (Saayman 2007:17-18). By the end of the 18th century, the white colonists no longer saw themselves as European, but as Afrikaners. The early Afrikaners had no explicit racial categories, although there were strong colonial stereotypes. These colonial stereotypes led to an ethnocentrism that viewed European culture and Christianity as superior to African culture or religion (Saayman 2007:20).

Missionary revival

Saayman notes two basic understandings as a framework for interpreting the history of DRC mission: firstly, that mission was essentially evangelistic and something done by white people (subjects) to black people (objects) (Saayman 2007:7).

Central to the first missionary revival in the DRC was the work of Rev. Helperus Ritzema van Lier and Rev. Michiel Christiaan de Vos. Both were heavily influenced by the continuing Reformation (Gerstner 1991:95-96).

Their ministry was marked by a strong Pietist spirituality and mission calling. Van Lier and De Vos started the first organised mission work within the DRC: Van Lier in 1786, while De Vos succeeded Van Lier in 1794 until 1802. Despite the different attitudes towards missionary work, it was clear that the DRC felt a calling to reach non-Christians. While there was a missionary awakening among the Cape Town congregations, the same was not true among the trekboere on the Eastern frontier (Saayman 2007:31).

Before 1843, the DRC was not very active in missionary work, apart from individuals like Van Lier and De Vos.

Possible reasons could be that up to that stage, the DRC in the Cape was under ecclesial and political control of, firstly, the Dutch, and then the British, who did not encourage missionary work; secondly, the shortage of ministers and the fact that those who were available were liberal. Lastly, the Boers had a negative perception of the local missionaries because of their criticism of slavery (Paas 2016:352). During this period, mission was conceived as mission to the slaves. The slaves were the most obvious group of non-Christians that the missionaries encountered. The Cape Town congregations focused on evangelisation and providing educational opportunities to the slaves. Evangelisation and education were closely linked because of the Reformed focus on the believer's ability to read God's Word and the relationship between Christianity and Western civilisation. This last aspect was strongly influenced by a colonial mindset.

The Synod of 1824 - the first Synod of the DRC - formulated a plan for educating non-Christians living within the boundaries of congregations. Another important decision was to ordain lay members (evangelists) of the DRC working among non-Christians. These were evangelists who could administer the sacraments to their congregations. Because of the success of their work and the growing number of black converts, the subsequent Synod of 1829 had to deal with the question of interracial worship. The Synod made a clear decision that no one could be excluded from worship. Despite this decision, many congregations continued to have separate worship services. A second important decision by the Synod was that non-white members who were baptised and catechised by ordained ministers would become full members of the local DRC (Saayman 2007:34-37).


A second wave (1867-1939): Crossing borders

In the period between the first and second missionary wave, the Great Trek took place. The main reasons for the migration were political marginalisation, lack of security, and the need for more agricultural land and workers for the farms (Giliomee & Mbenga 2007:108-110). Another concern for the trekkers was the policy of social equality (gelykstelling) between black and white people in the Cape Colony and the emancipation of slaves. The trek had a marked influence on the missionary fervour of the DRC. The trekkers would come into contact (mostly confrontational) with large numbers of indigenous Africans and saw them as objects of mission. Another effect was that the Afrikaners saw themselves, in terms of the Old Testament covenant, as God's chosen people who had to promote the Christian civilisation among the heathen (Giliomee 2004:175; Saayman 2007:38).

The second wave started after the settlement of the trekkers in their new homeland and the discovery of diamonds. Economically, the landscape was changed forever by this discovery in 1867 because it brought interest from mining capitalists and foreign governments and led to industrialisation and urbanisation (Saayman 2007:45).

Sociopolitical context

This period was crucial in the formation of an Afrikaner identity (Saayman 2007:46): firstly, because the early traces of Afrikaner nationalism could be seen during this period; secondly, religiosity became a strong feature of the Afrikaners and lastly, the Afrikaner's experience of being called on a divine mission to bring the gospel and civilisation to Southern Africa. The group that headed to the interior were, however, plagued by squabbling and strife among the leaders of the various groups as well as within the groups of trekkers. Their dream of being the covenant 'volk' that would bring the Christian civilisation to the heathen was soon conflicted by violent clashes with the indigenous groups that killed many on both sides. The governing structures in the newfound republics were also too weak to hold real power and to support their people (Giliomee 2004:163-166, 179). It was during this phase that the racial categories became more pronounced among the Afrikaners.

While most of the trekkers still belonged to the DRC in the Cape that advocated against racial exclusion, the practice of separate worship services was widespread among the trekkers. For some, the idea of racial equality was so abhorrent that they joined Rev. Dirk Van der Hoff1 in forming a new church, the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika, that advocated for racial exclusivity (Giliomee 2004:125, 167-177).

Missionary revival

By the time of the second wave, the DRC had become a national church albeit a church in two different contexts and ecclesiologies. The Cape Colony Church was led by ordained ministers in paid positions, and an established church structure. In the inland it was still a developing church; at first, there were no ordained ministers who served the trekkers and congregations only developed once the trekkers were settled. Once settled the trekkers formed congregations that were served by missionaries who were available. To their great disappointment, the Cape Synod disapproved of the trek (1937) and refused to send them ministers. They were, however, still loyal to the church of their forefathers (Giliomee 2004:176). Oliver (2006:1474-1475) argues that while the influence of Pietism was strong in the Cape Church during this phase, it had little to no influence on the trekkers and the church in the interior. They found their identity as the covenant nation in Old Testament terms.

The Cape Colony government had stopped paying the salaries of ministers, and individual congregations were forced to accept responsibility for their ministers. The influence of the government on ministers and the church decreased significantly and the DRC became closely identified with the Afrikaner people (Saayman 2007:46). The Afrikaners furthermore saw a strong link between their future survival and their faithfulness to their calling to bring faith to their new homeland.

This period was the official start of the DRC's organised missionary work. The Cape Synod of 1857 appointed a mission committee to organise missionary work inside and outside the borders of the Colony (Saayman 2007:50). Dr W. Robertson was sent to Europe in 1860 to recruit foreign missionaries. The first European missionaries were sent to work in a 'foreign' country, the present Pilanesberg and Soutpansberg2 areas. From 1877, missionaries were sent to work in the current Botswana (1877), Malawi (1889), Zimbabwe (1891), Zambia (1899), Nigeria (1908), Mozambique (1909) and Kenya (1944) (Du Preez 2002:138-140). It must be said that it was not only congregations in the Cape Colony that were active in missionary work, but also congregations throughout the rest of South Africa. The church in the Free State decided to contribute towards the Cape Synod's missionary work until they were able to start their own (Saayman 2007:55).

It was during the second wave that John and Andrew Murray Jr and N.J. Hofmeyr started their ministry and further developed the Evangelical-Pietist DNA of the DRC. These three ministers had a strong influence on the second wave of missionary work. The growth of a revivalist spirit in Britain and America in the 1880s - brought to South Africa by European ministers and missionaries who had been exposed to it - also influenced the DRC's fervour for missions. Various organisations with a missionary aim were formed, such as the Predikante-Sendingvereniging in 1886. Among these organisations were two that would have a significant impact on youth ministry in South Africa. The first was the Christelike Jonglieden Vereniging (1874), which later developed into the Kerkjeugvereniging. The second was the Christen Studente Vereniging, formed in 1896 with the aim of ministry to scholars and students (Heyns 2002:132-133).

During this period women played a major role in the DRC's mission work. Robert (1993:103) argues that without the women's encouragement, fundraising, organisational ability and eagerness to work as missionaries, the DRC's mission work would not have been possible. The moral, intellectual and spiritual foundations of these women were laid in the girls' schools founded during this period. One example is the Huguenot College (opened in 1874) in Wellington, founded by Andrew Murray Jr. to raise the educational standards of Afrikaner women. The first teachers at this institution were all recruited from the famous Mount Holyoke seminary in the United States, which trained teachers and missionaries. The founder of Mount Holyoke, Mary Lyon, said that the 'purpose in education was to bring her pupils to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and then to channel their lives into self-sacrificial Christian service' (Robert 1993:105). These teachers instilled in the girls a Christian ethos and a strong calling to work in the Kingdom. By 1897, 51 of the Huguenot College alumni were active in the mission field. In 1890, the Vroue Zending Bond was formed (Saayman 2007:52), which started doing ministry work among children that later became the Kinderkransbeweging (Landman 2002:154). After the Second South African War, women were also active in the Transvaal Vrouesendingvereniging, formed in 1905 (Saayman 2007:58).

The Second South African War between Britain and the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republics (1899-1902) had a profound influence on the Afrikaners' self-understanding. Politically and economically, the Afrikaners were brought to their knees. Despite the trauma and financial and human cost, the war also brought spiritual depth and increased mission fervour into the hearts of Afrikaners. Notably, 200 of the prisoners of war in India, Ceylon and St Helena volunteered for mission service after the war. Because many of them did not have the academic credentials to attend the seminary in Stellenbosch, a special institute for mission, the Boer Mission School, was opened in Worcester. The renewed spiritual commitment of the Afrikaners during the war led to increased involvement in and contributions to mission work (Saayman 2007:61).

The missionary enthusiasm of the second wave would, however, subside during the early 1930s because of various factors, including the urbanisation of black Africans, the start of the black trade union movement, the development of the African indigenous churches, the drought of the 1930s, world economic stagnation, poverty among white Afrikaners and the split among the Afrikaners on the decision to join the Second World War as part of the Allies against Germany (Saayman 2007:63). Between 1939 and 1945, the DRC was transformed from a rural to an urban church, with 71% of its members now living in urban areas. Urbanisation had a detrimental effect on the involvement of DRC members. By the 1940s, only 30% of DRC members still attended church and Holy Communion in Johannesburg. The Afrikaners also felt increasingly threatened by Anglicisation and the increasing number of Africans.


A third wave (1954-1976): Crossing inner boundaries

When writing about this period, the first difficulty the researcher encounters is to differentiate between the sociopolitical and the ecclesial context of the time. The lines between these two aspects of life in South Africa were so blurred that you start writing about the one and end up writing about the other. During this period, the National Party government's idea of separate development and the DRC's strategy of homogenous churches were closely related.3 The Afrikaner people still experienced a divine calling to bring Christianity and civilisation to the Southern tip of Africa, but this calling was balanced with the ideal of preserving the racial purity of the Afrikaner nation. These aims played out in new Apartheid laws and the mission fervour of this period (Saayman 2007:71-72).

Sociopolitical context

Afrikaner nationalism gathered steam between the second and third missionary wave and became institutionalised with the victory of the National Party in 1948. The apartheid system was nothing new in 1948; Saayman (2007:70) believes apartheid was rooted in 300 years of Western colonialist ethnocentrism. It was, however, true that the apartheid ideology became entrenched in politics and law after 1948. The idealistic dream of apartheid was the separate development and self-determination of each cultural group in South Africa (Livingston 2014: loc. 288). Apartheid was not only a political ideology, but also part of the DRC's theology.

The 1880 decision of the DRC to form separate churches for mixed race people (the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, founded in 1881), for black Christians (the DRC in Africa, founded in 1951) and for Indian Christians (the Reformed Church in Africa, founded in 1968)4 is an example of this (Naudé 2005:165-166). The close link between politics and religion was influenced by the theology of Abraham Kuyper, who saw Calvinism as an all-encompassing life system. Within the Neo-Calvinist understanding of theology, the line between service to the nation and service to God was difficult to distinguish. Livingston (2014) states that:

Every dimension of life exists under the common grace of God, and has its own unique 'sovereignty'. Because the various spheres exist under God's common grace, rooted in the creation order itself, Kuyper discerned a theoretical basis for 'Christian Nationalism', a Christian ordering of society and culture. (loc. 433)

The sociopolitical attitudes of most DRC members were reflected in the mission policy of the church. The DRC was, however, not unique in its handling of cultural issues in mission. The work of the prominent German missiologist Gustav Warneck5 (1834-1919) was used to justify and entrench the theology of separate churches6 (Du Toit 1984:622). Warneck believed that the aim of mission was Volkschristianisierung [Christianising of whole nations] (Bosch 1983:26-27). It was only a short leap from Christianising a whole nation to Christianising a whole nation on its own (Naudé 2005:166).

This period was the height of the apartheid system, and the government and church had full confidence in their project. The DRC had a lot of power and influence and was in a financially healthy position. During this period, two commissions were appointed by the apartheid government that would have a fundamental influence on the missionary work of the DRC. The first was the Eiselen Commission (on 'Bantu education') and the second was the Tomlinson Commission (on the 'socio-economic development in the proposed black homelands'). The government believed that education was central to the long-term success of the apartheid system. The Eiselen Report was implemented as the Bantu Education Act of 1953,7 and the Christian National Education system was created (Du Toit 1984:625; Saayman 2007:73). The Tomlinson Report (1953) had an even bigger impact. The report dealt with all aspects of the proposed black homelands, which included a prominent section on Christian missions. The report highlighted the need for more missionaries in the black homelands.

The 1960s was also the time when the black resistance movement started to influence the apartheid system.

The Sharpeville and Langa demonstrations were met by draconian security measures. Tension within South Africa and resistance against the apartheid system were on the rise. There was an increase in criticism from ecumenical bodies on the DRC and government as well as many dissenting voices within the DRC and in the DRC family of churches (Saayman 2007:79). Early voices from within the DRC were those of professors Johannes du Plessis, Bennie Keet and Ben Marais and the very prominent Rev. Beyers Naudé. Among later strong voices were Professors Jaap du Rand, Ben Marais, Nico Smith, Johan Heyns and Dawid Bosch. These individual voices were soon supported by many other ministers and members of the DRC. The dissenting voices followed two strategies: sympathetic critique and confrontation; the first strategy was followed by most dissenters. During the 1980s the resistance against these dissenting voices grew and many were pushed out of the church. It would later emerge that their efforts were not in vain, but the pace of change was very slow (cf. De Gruchy 1979; Lubbe 2001; Serfontein 1982).

Missionary revival

The influence of the Tomlinson Report could be seen in the upsurge in the missionary work of the DRC in Southern Africa (Van der Watt 2003:216). With the support of the National Party government, there was an increase in missionaries being sent to the homelands. Mission stations, church buildings, institutions for the blind and deaf and hospitals were built with government subsidies (Saayman 2007:76). Various congregations were planted for Christians from an Indian background, and there was also work among the Muslim and Hindu communities (Van der Watt 2003:217). The emphasis in the DRC's mission work shifted from crossing international borders to crossing internal boundaries in South Africa.

The aim of the mission of the DRC was to win souls for the Kingdom, planting of churches and organising of denominations (Van der Watt 2003:215); a commendable aim, but with the undeniable small print - as segregated churches. White South Africans rarely crossed into a black person's world except for the missionary work that was done. It is no surprise that many of the missionaries who were confronted with the realities of the black community became champions of the anti-apartheid movement.

The approach to mission was holistic. Not only was evangelism done, but social services were also delivered by the church. At this stage, there were 3000 mission schools educating 220 000 children, 38 mission hospitals with 8000 beds, seven schools for the blind, six for the deaf and eight theological seminaries (Van der Watt 2003:217).

The church became one of the main partners of the National Party government in delivering social services to the homelands (Saayman 2007:77). It remains one of the ironies of the apartheid ideology that a system that was so harsh and inhumane, on the one hand, could also be a system that invested so much in bringing the gospel and delivering better social services, on the other hand. The idea of holistic mission must be qualified because mission was still very much within Andrew Murray Jr's Evangelical-Pietist tradition, which emphasised personal conversion. Providing social services was auxiliary to this main aim (Durand 1985:42-43; Saayman 2007:88).

Another reason for the strong growth in mission projects during this period was a better organisational structure within the church, and mission secretaries who were appointed to coordinate the mission projects of the church.

Mission was driven and largely organised by the various Synods and not by local congregations (Van der Watt 2003:219). More money was also available because of the economic boom (Saayman 2007:90). Mission was still something done by white DRC members to and for black people. The DRC's involvement in social services was also driven and funded by the government's need to have partners in delivering services in the homelands.

The 'foreign' mission projects (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Namibia) of the DRC did not experience the same explosive growth as that in the homelands, but continued on the same level as during the previous wave (Saayman 2007:77).

The third wave of the DRC's missionary activity was filled with disparities and ambivalence. A biblical commandment to mission was mixed with racist ideologies (Saayman 2003:2010). Authentic mission fervour was coloured by attempts to protect the Afrikaners' political and economic interests. Mission history tells the story of successful mission projects in Southern and Central Africa, of which many have grown into mature churches and that are still successful even today, even though they were started in a period of mixed motives.


A fourth wave (1990 onwards): To the ends of the Earth

Saayman (2007:100) dates the start of the fourth wave as the end of the 1980s, during the dying years of the apartheid system. It was a time of fundamental changes in the self-understanding of the Afrikaners. Power was slipping from their hands, and this created serious questions about the future of the Afrikaners and the DRC in Africa. Importantly, was there still a need for a white church to bring faith and civilisation to Africa? The sea change of 1994 forced the Afrikaners and the DRC to reflect on their own identity and the role in Africa.

Sociopolitical context

During the 1980s, the National Party government was still firmly in control, but economically, South Africa was hurting and sanctions were taking their toll. Violence and demonstrations made parts of the country ungovernable. The government and the anti-apartheid movement were in a stalemate and another way out had to be found. Secret negotiations were started with the ANC in 1986; these negotiations led up to the announcement by President F.W. de Klerk in February 1990 that liberation movements would be unbanned, and political prisoners would be released. Neither the National Party supporters nor liberation movement supporters were prepared for the announcement made that day (Saayman 2007:103). The members of both parties were still heavily invested in protecting their own interests. The announcement especially came as a shock to many DRC members.

The 1994 democratic elections and the New South Africa had mixed consequences for the Afrikaners. On the one hand, they were relieved about the smooth, violence-free transition to a democratic South Africa. The world opened to them, and they were now able to travel and work abroad. The end of sanctions also brought economic relief to the country. On the other hand, the reality was that it would mean the end of the privileged position of white South Africans. The urgent need for equality among all the people of South Africa resulted in black economic empowerment and affirmative action. Although it would take many years to correct the imbalances caused by the apartheid system, these new laws and actions created uncertainty among Afrikaners.

Missionary revival

The end of apartheid came so suddenly that the DRC was not prepared to offer adequate pastoral leadership to its members. Dutch Reformed Church members, along with most Afrikaners, had to digest the fact that 'communists' would now govern their 'Christian country' (Saayman 2007:104). The church that had given them spiritual leadership for so many years was discredited in many people's eyes for its support of the apartheid system (Lategan 1999:409). The National Party capitulated and disappeared shortly after the end of apartheid. Would the same happen to the DRC?

The feelings of confusion, vulnerability and uncertainty about the future led to a complete loss of mission fervour for Africa among DRC members (Saayman 2007:106). The mission focus of the DRC during the first three waves was closely linked to the Afrikaner's self-understanding as being called by God to bring faith and civilisation to Southern Africa. The uncertainty surrounding the DRC's role in South Africa caused by the end of apartheid now made the DRC turn its focus to mission further afield.

Since the previous mission wave, the number of full-time missionaries in Southern Africa had declined significantly; from 1973 to 1977, the number decreased from 1078 to 551 (Van der Watt 2003:222). There were several reasons for this, among them the tension between the apartheid government and the Southern Africa governments. This led to the rejection of many visa applications by white South African missionaries (Van der Watt 2003:221). Saayman (2007:109) argues that the first three waves were driven by a colonial mindset of bringing faith and civilisation to Africa. Within this mindset, white South Africans were in a position of power and were able to create a European environment within an African context. The end of the colonialist mindset and a new, democratic South Africa brought home the reality that they were a white minority within an African context. The result was that their vision turned inward, and they started focusing on self-preservation.

Between the third and fourth waves, there was still much confusion about how to define mission. In 1986, a conference of the Dutch Reformed family of churches helped to mould a new understanding of mission, and a new definition of mission was formulated that was incorporated into the official mission policy of the DRC. Mission was formulated as God's mission (missio Dei), from which the church's mission (missio ecclesiae) would flow. The mission of the church would have different dimensions, namely, kerygma, diakonia, koinonia, leitourgia and maturgia (Van der Watt 2003:223-224). The concept of the missio Dei was now starting to become more prominent in the discussion of the church's calling.

Although the motivation for more mission work within Africa waned, the missionary DNA of the DRC was still strong, and the church started to look further afield for mission opportunities that were not a threat to their position in Africa. The focus of many congregations shifted to the ends of the earth, so to speak.

Projects in ex-Soviet countries, the '10/40 window', India, Pakistan and even Western Europe were started (Van der Watt 2003:226). Other significant changes in the missionary work of the DRC also took place, such as (Van Niekerk 1997:414):

1. a shift from work done by Synods to work done by congregations

2. the role of ordained ministers as missionaries taken over by lay members

3. a move away from central control by Synods to decentralisation

4. a change from work within the church structures to partnerships with para-church organisations.


A fifth wave: Missional awakening - 2003 onwards?

Niemandt (2010:93) argues convincingly that Saayman's typology of the fourth wave as reaching 'to the ends of the earth' does not consider all the facets of the DRC's mission. The reasons given centre around the development of a missional ecclesiology in the DRC. Furthermore, the missional self-understanding of the DRC developed into a global and a local focus (glocal); in other words, 'to the ends of the earth' but also in Jerusalem. The current research would like to build on the opinion of Niemandt, among others, in looking at the possibility of a new fifth wave of mission within the DRC.

Sociopolitical context

Much has changed in the sociopolitical context of South Africa since the start of the fourth wave. Young adults who are currently part of the DRC were born in the dying years of the apartheid system or early in the New South Africa, and thus grew up in a multiracial society. Being white in the New South Africa, they may be experiencing some pessimism about their economic future. At the other end of the spectrum, the cohort of members that grew up under apartheid and retired around the beginning of the New South Africa era are growing older and are playing a smaller role in society and the church.

Cross-cultural dialogue in everyday life is increasing (Hofmeyr & Kruger 2009:384). In some situations, it leads to conflict, but Robert Schreiter (in Taber 2002:191) argues that cross-cultural dialogue helps to expose ethnocentric thought patterns and to deconstruct culture. These two aspects are helping to create an openness towards and acceptance of other cultures.

The impact of secularism in South Africa has also become more prominent. According to a WIN-Gallup poll (WIN-Gallup International 2012:n.p.), 83% had indicated that they were religious in 2005, but this figure dropped to 64% in 2012. There could be many reasons for this, one being a greater openness to disclose being non-religious. Still, the implication is that DRC members are now living in a much more secularised society.

Missionary revival

In the last 20 years, three prominent movements within the DRC have helped congregations discover their calling. The first was the Gemeentebou [congregational development] movement, the second was the Congregational Studies movement and the third was the missional church movement.

The Gemeentebou movement became organised around the Gemeentebou programme, which started in the mid-1980s with the work of Nel (1986), and later Hendriks (1990) and Bischoff (1991). Nel (in Ungerer & Nel 2011) defines Gemeentebou as 'die bediening waarbinne die gemeente opgelei en begelei word om:

haar eie wese en bestaansdoel te verstaan; self, as gemotiveerde gemeente, haar eie funksionering te evalueer, doelwitte vir haar doelgerigte funksievervulling te formuleer en op beplande wyse te bereik; self, soos nodig, op 'n voortgaande basis strukture, wat die heilshandelinge van die drie-enige God in kerk en wêreld dien, vir die gemeentelike funksionering te ontwikkel. (p. 2)

Although the Gemeentebou programme was influenced by the Church Growth Movement in the United States, the programme was given more theological depth in South Africa by Nel (Burger 2014:n.p.; Naudé 2004:36). The programme was set on two main pillars: helping individuals to accept Christ and to have an effective testimony as well as developing a stronger sense of community among the members of a congregation (Burger 1991:15). The programme had mixed success, but created an awareness that congregations are not only spiritual entities, but also have sociological aspects to them (Burger 1991:16). The programme brought about a shift in the ecclesiology of the DRC, as members were starting to realise that ministers and elders were not the only people called to bring the gospel to the world; it was the task of every believer. Recent research by Ungerer and Nel (2011) indicated a slight-to-moderate improvement in mission activity in congregations involved in the Gemeentebou program. Ungerer and Nel (2011:10) are, however, of the opinion that the Gemeentebou programme had little success in helping congregations to develop a missional identity.

The second approach was Congregational Studies (1989). This field was developed in South Africa by Coenie Burger (1991) and the institute led by him called Buvton (later Communitas). Their aim was to understand how congregations function, and to use that understanding to help congregations be more effective. This approach wanted to distance itself from the Church Growth movement because of its 'ingrown conception of the church' (Burger 2004:310).

Congregational Studies programmes have helped churches to be more effective through the training of ministers, research and the facilitation of processes of change in congregations. Although Gemeentebou was strongly focused on evangelisation and helping congregations grow, Congregational Studies went a step further in helping congregations develop a Kingdom focus.

At synodical level, General Synod called for a 'Year of Hope' in 2001 that focused on the church's calling to make a difference in the local community (not only at the 'ends of the earth'). Missionary diaconate was now becoming a focus area for the church, and there was a growing realisation within the DRC that the integrity of the witness of the church was dependent on the church's involvement in poverty relief and service to the community. As far as church polity was concerned, the General Synod's Commission for Mission and the Commission for Diaconal Services were now also moving closer together in their work (Van der Watt 2003:227).

The third movement that would impact the DRC is the missional church movement. Around the late 1990s, the work of David Bosch was becoming popular in academic circles in South Africa. His emphasis on the missionary nature of the church, the Trinity, the missio Dei, was starting to influence the theology in the DRC.

The work of the Gospel in Our Culture Network (built on the work of Lesslie Newbigin) was also starting to have an influence on South African theologians. Burger (2014) recalls how he received an, as yet, unpublished manuscript of Missional Church: A vision for the sending of the missional church in North America (Guder 1998) from Guder while doing research at the Princeton Theological Seminary (1997), and realised that this was the theology that was needed in South Africa. Although the external task of the DRC was still seen as missionary (missionêr) in nature, many in the church had started to realise that the gospel also had implications for the church's involvement in social justice issues. Burger also met Keifert and invited him to visit South Africa. Keifert spent a sabbatical in South Africa during 2001 and 2002 and introduced the Partnership for Missional Church (PMC) (Vernootskapvir Gestuurde Gemeentes) to South Africa.

The PMC saw the church as a cultural system and not an organisation (Keifert 2006:39). The aim of the PMC was to bring missional transformation to congregations through 'spiritual discernment that focuses on cultural change and mission confirmation' (Keifert 2006:39). The PMC focuses not only on behavioural change, worship style, leadership or organisational structure, but also on real, deep cultural change. Because the PMC takes the missio Dei seriously, spiritual discernment is central to their process. Spiritual discernment starts by asking the question: 'What is God's preferred and promised future for our local church?' (Keifert 2006:64). Spiritual discernment is done through dwelling on the Word, as well as in the world, and listening to where God is sending the church to become part of his mission.

The arrival of the PMC was an important step in developing a missional ecclesiology within the DRC. It helped congregations to make the transition from focusing on church growth to focusing on Kingdom growth, from having a mission to being missional. This transition was also reflected in the decisions of the General Synod of the DRC. For example:

The official mission policy of the DRC adopted in 1998 reflected the growing realisation that everything the church does is built on the missio Dei.

The Statement of Calling 2002 (Roepingverklaring 2002) (Ned. Geref. Kerk 2013) of the General Synod laid the foundation for the development of a missional theology within the DRC. The document had the following commitments:

1. The church is committed to God who planted his church in Southern Africa.

2. The church is committed to the continent, especially Southern Africa.

3. The church is committed to unity with other churches.

4. The church is committed to getting involved in the healing of the country.

At this stage, the missionary involvement of DRC congregations was still very much directed towards the 'ends of the earth' (Saayman 2007:112). Within this context, the Statement of Calling 2002 was leading the DRC back to its roots in having a vision for building the Kingdom in Southern Africa (Van Niekerk 2014:4). The Statement helped the church to see the need and the pain in Africa, as well as her calling to bring healing in Africa (Mouton 2007:4).

Statement of Calling 2002 would indicate a new direction for the DRC, a move in the direction of becoming a missional church. The commitment of calling (Roepingverbintenis) of the General Synod 2004 followed this direction in emphasising that the DRC is called as a community to join God in His mission. Emphasis was furthermore placed on discernment (a church that takes the missio Dei seriously will want to discern where God is already working) and on the church's calling to bring healing to those who suffer because of the brokenness in creation.

The 'Season of Listening' (Seisoen van Luister) launched in 2005 is an example of the transformation within the DRC to be a more discerning and serving church. This initiative by the General Synod encouraged congregations and Synods to listen to God, each other and the context they are in. This listening attitude created an awareness of where God (i.e. missio Dei) is working and of the broader needs of the world (Niemandt 2010:100). The Season of Listening climaxed in a programme launched in 2009 called 'Growth across borders' (Groeioorgrense). The aim of this programme was to help congregations to react to what they heard during the Season of Listening and to cross borders in following God where he was already at work (Niemandt 2010:100).

The Statement of Calling (Roepingsverklaring) by the General Synod of 2007 (Ned. Geref. Kerk 2013) reconfirmed the DRC's calling to focus on the local community in bringing healing and building the Kingdom.

It was emphasised that the local congregation was the embodiment of God's mission to the local community, and every member of the congregation was a missionary. The fact that church was literally starting to move out of the building and the position of the church as a servant to the world were emphasised. A clear message was sent that the church had given up any pretension of power in striving to be a missional church.

The 2013 General Synod continued this trend in developing a missional ecclesiology for the DRC. Critical to this was the report Raamwerkdokument oor die Missionaleaardenroeping van die NG Kerk (Ned. Geref. Kerk 2013). The report was the most comprehensive report on a missional ecclesiology for the DRC yet. It was strongly influenced by the WCC document Together towards life: Mission and evangelism in changing landscapes (Niemandt, Together towards life and mission: A basis for good governance in church and society today 2015:4).

Arguments for a new fifth wave

The current research wants to suggest the following arguments for identifying a fifth wave in the missionary development of the DRC.

Contextual changes between 1994 and 2000:

The illusion of a white Christian South Africa was fading fast after 1994 and the reality of a post-Christian context was becoming clearer. The 'lost' was no longer only found at the 'ends of the earth' but in the home of the next-door neighbour. There was a growing realisation that the future of the DRC and white South Africans lay rooted in the future success of a democratic South Africa and Christianity in Africa as a whole. From 1994 the needs of the poor started creeping closer to the everyday lives of the DRC members. Informal settlements were now on the doorsteps of middle-class neighbourhoods.

Loss of influence and money:

Between 1994 and 2000, the DRC still had some residual influence and money from before 1994, with DRC members were still occupying prominent positions within government and industry, and financial stability following years of growth. This would soon change because of affirmative action and black economic empowerment. The DRC lost its position of power and influence, and had to look for new ways to bring change to South Africa. New ways were found in the realisation that white Christians need to follow Jesus in serving their communities. The influence of congregations no longer lay in their ability to wield power, but in their ability to serve and to love - a characteristic that is central to a missional church. The finances for sustaining international mission projects were also decreasing. Congregations had to rationalise their involvement in many international mission projects because they were no longer sustainable. The energy, focus, and finance that went into international projects were now starting to shift to local projects.

Growth in the church's missional identity can be seen in the following aspects of the DRC ecclesiology:

A shift came about in the identity of the DRC from a church with a mission to a missional church, seeing mission not as something the church does but something the church is.

A shift from a Christocentric theology to a Trinitarian theology that sees the church as part of the Trinity's movement towards creation.

A shift towards a holistic view of mission that sees personal salvation as one aspect of God's Kingdom. The ecology, justice, equality, and freedom from poverty and discrimination are all important aspects of God's Kingdom.

A commitment within congregations to bringing healing to South Africa and Africa. Congregations were no longer just sending missionaries to other mission fields, but they were getting involved in mission work in their local environment. (Van Niekerk 2014:4)

The success and influence of the Gestuurde Gemeentes network and, more recently, Mission Shaped Ministry training.

Against this background, there are strong indications of a shift in identity within the DRC. Up to 2000, the church was still predominantly within a Christendom mindset, seeing mission as something the church does to convert the heathen. Van Niekerk (2014:4) argues that this new fifth wave of mission 'is a continuation of the focus on the African context of the first three waves, but it is also a paradigm shift to a new understanding of the content and character of mission'. Congregations are not only sending missionaries to Africa but are also understanding themselves as being sent to their local context.

A missional transition can also be seen in the writings of theologians during the 1990s and the decisions of the Synods during the first decade of the new millennium. These influences were steadily diffusing down to congregational level, and congregation members started to realise that the Spirit was doing new things through the church. Many congregational leaders are becoming interested in developing a missional ecclesiology in their congregations and are looking for strategies to do so. Some congregations are also starting to tell hopeful stories about what God can do in congregations once they start to have a missional imagination.

There are, however, some factors inhibiting congregations in developing a missional ecclesiology. Among these are anxiety about the financial sustainability of local congregations and negativity about South Africa because of high crime and corruption. These aspects trigger the 'laager effect' among Afrikaners and an inward focus. Other factors include an ageing membership with less drive and capacity for work in the Kingdom as well as stubborn, colonial and racial paradigms of mission that are still prevalent among members. Lastly, the high average age of ministers who were trained to serve congregations within a Christendom context.

The scope of this research is limited to identifying a fifth wave and describing its context. In thinking about the DRC mission, one is always reminded of the ambivalence of motives of the mission. Some critical reflection will have to be done on how racism and a colonial mindset are influencing the fifth wave of mission development in the DRC.



The DRC had a strong missionary DNA since the planting of the church. This missionary focus and fervour, however, ebbed and flowed during the history of the church. The research found strong evidence to define a fifth wave. The fifth wave was influenced by contextual changes (e.g. a secularising, a more integrated multicultural society and the realisation of the needs of the poor) and loss of influence and money by the DRC. Furthermore, the growth in the church's missional identity can be seen in the following aspects: the influence of theologians like Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch; a belief that mission is not something the church does but something the church is; a shift from a Christocentric theology to a Trinitarian theology; a holistic view of salvation; a commitment to the local context of the congregation and a focus on bringing healing to their local communities; and lastly, the success of the Gestuurde Gemeentes network and, more recently, the Mission Shaped Ministry training. There are, however, also factors inhibiting the development of a missional ecclesiology, like anxiety about crime and politics that leads to self-protection, ministers that are not trained to lead congregations in a secular context, colonial and racial conceptions about mission and congregations that are not financially sustainable. The hope is that the DRC will engage with these factors and challenges, and that the fifth wave of missional awakening will help congregations too to join the movement of the Trinity in the world and to be a sign, instrument and foretaste of the gospel.



Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors' contribution

C.R.B. did the research for this article as part of his research to complete a PhD. C.J.P.N. supervised the research, contributed sections of the article, edited the contribution and compiled the final submission.



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Cornelius Niemandt

Received: 08 Nov. 2018
Accepted: 26 Apr. 2019
Published: 20 June 2019



1. Note the article of Oliver and Pont (1990) that highlights the stabilising influence of Rev. van der Hoff in a context of strife and disunity among the Afrikaners in the Transvaal.
2. These areas are currently part of South Africa, but at the time, they were part of the South African Republic (independent of the Cape Colony) and were deemed foreign by the DRC in the Cape Colony (Saayman 2007:51).
3. The DRC was by no means the only church that supported the NP government and Apartheid system. A church like the Gereformeerde Kerk was even more influenced by neo-Calvinism. They emphasised the Afrikaners as a covenant community who are set apart from the other nations (Livingston 2014: loc. 393).
4. Naude (2005:166) indicates the dates for the start of the DRC in Africa as 1911 and for the Reformed Church in Africa as 1951. Cronje (1982:51) and Livingston (2014:24) use 1951 for the first Synod of the DRC in Africa. Cronje (1982:79), Hofmeyr (2002:24) and Livingston (2014:24) agree that the first Synod of the RCA was held in 1968. The difference in dates seems to be between the date of the DRC Synod's decision to start a new church, and the date of the new church's first Synod, which is the date used in this thesis.
5. Warneck's view was popularised in Afrikaans through the work of J. du Plessis, Wiesalgaan (Bosch 1983:27).
6. For more on the relationship between Warneck and the DRC missiology, see Naude (2005).
7. Saayman (2007:73) makes a valid argument that the farm school system played an important role in the economic and educational disparities in South Africa.

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From the earth of Africa: Q research in South Africa



Llewellyn HowesI, II

IDepartment of Languages, Cultural Studies and Applied Linguistics, School of Languages, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
IIDepartment of Religion Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa





As the title indicates, this article traces the history of Q research in South Africa. It focuses on South African scholars who have made worthwhile contributions to our understanding and knowledge of the Sayings Gospel Q. An attempt is ultimately made to detect some trends in this regard. One significant finding perhaps worth mentioning in the abstract is the undeniable influence of Andries G. van Aarde on Q scholarship in South Africa.

Keywords: Q; Sayings Gospel; South Africa; Research; Trends.




This overview considers research by South African scholars on the Sayings Gospel Q. Given this focus, a number of studies fall outside the current scope of investigation. Firstly, the overview will not include studies of Q texts that focus on their Synoptic form, context or appropriation.1 The reason for this is that the current overview wants to focus on studies that concentrate on Q as an independent witness to the early Jesus movement. For obvious reasons, the current study also excludes the publications of foreign scholars in South African journals.2 Finally, the study also excludes publications that focus on the Synoptic Problem or the Two-Source Hypothesis and not Q itself.3 Apart from considering the contributions of South African scholars to our understanding and knowledge of the Sayings Gospel Q, this article also considers whether or not it is possible to detect any trends in South African scholarship on Q. The presentation is largely chronological, using scholars' first date of publication as an organising principle, but at the same time keeping the discussions of individual scholars separate by treating them in turn.


Patrick Hartin

Patrick Hartin was born in South Africa and completed his doctoral study on Q there, but later immigrated to Washington, US. Under the supervision of Isak du Plessis at UNISA (the University of South Africa), Hartin was in 1988 the first person to complete a doctoral study on the Sayings Gospel Q in South Africa. The study argued that the letter of James drew from a developed version of Q, as it was adapted by the Matthean community, but before it was finally incorporated into the Gospel of Matthew. Arguably the most widely accepted answer to the source-critical question of the relation between James and Q, this doctoral study was published in 1991 as a monograph, and republished in the same form in 2015. An article was also published from the doctoral dissertation, focusing specifically on Q's inaugural sermon and its relation to James (Hartin 1989). In 2000, Hartin contributed to the James Robinson Festschrift, From Quest to Q, focusing on the Woes against the Pharisees in Q 11:39-52 to illustrate that Matthew continued the redactional process started by Q's main redactor when appropriating this pericope. In 2014, he contributed to a volume edited by Alicia Batten and John Kloppenborg on the relation between James and Q. With this contribution, Hartin went beyond mere source-critical questions to explore theological concepts common to James and Q, focusing on the concept of 'wholeness'. Throughout this comparison, it is argued that James represents both a development of the Jesus tradition in Q and an intensified theological reflection of that tradition.

Hartin has also focused on questions about Q that are not related to the letter of James. Influenced by Kloppenborg's (1987a) proposed stratification of Q, Hartin argued in 1994 that the proclamation of Jesus was in the first place about a present reality called the kingdom of God, but that the Jesus tradition was later appropriated by the early church within a deuteronomistic framework as a message about the imminent, apocalyptic end of the world. Hartin elaborated on the concept of a deuteronomistic development in Q with a subsequent publication on the Sophia logia in Q (1995). After summarising the role of Sophia in Israel's wisdom tradition, Hartin takes a closer look at Q 7:31-35 and Q 11:49-51, the two passages in Q that mention Sophia explicitly. The investigation pays particular attention to the composition and rhetoric of these two passages, but also takes into consideration their relationship to three other Q texts that probably also allude to Sophia (i.e. Q 10:21-22; 11:31; 13:34-35), as well as their relationship to the rest of Q and Israel's wisdom tradition in general. Hartin finds that these sayings about Sophia belong to the second layer of Q, which utters judgements and warnings against Jewish outsiders who oppose the Q people. Experiencing conflict, opposition and persecution from greater Israel, the Q people combined the Sophia and deuteronomistic traditions of ancient Israel in a unique way, so that Sophia became both the agent sending out emissaries and the judge condemning 'this generation' for failing to accept her emissaries and their message.

In 2009, Hartin published an article entitled 'Two Sayings Gospels: The Gospel of Thomas and the Sayings Gospel Q', providing a brief overview of significant research on these two Sayings Gospels. According to him, Thomas originates from the 1st century and provides evidence for a different branch of Christianity. He also maintains that Q was written between 50 and 70 CE, before the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jesus traditions that originated and circulated in Northern Galilee and Western Syria were probably written down in Antioch. The publication finishes with the following statement:

With an emphasis on asceticism and a countercultural worldview, these two Sayings Gospels provided the foundation within early Christianity for movements such as monasticism and spiritualities that focused on a life directed toward the renunciation of the values of the world.


Jonathan Draper

Although he has published on many topics related to the New Testament, including the Sayings Gospel Q, Jonathan Draper has focused most extensively on the Didache.4 Some of his publications on the Didache discuss Q as well, making it worthwhile to consider some of these publications here. In 1991, Draper published an article that considers the relationship between the Didache and the Gospel of Matthew, both of which, in turn, are closely related to Q.5 Three aspects of Draper's understanding of the Didache are important for our purposes. Firstly, Draper (1996) maintains that the Didache derives in large part from existing Jewish tradition:

Thus the core of [Didache] 1-6 is Jewish and pre-Christian (c. 100 B.C.E. to 50 C.E.) and the work as a whole had probably received its present form by the end of the first century C.E. (p. 75)

Secondly, Matthew and the Didache represent the same community, and the direction of influence between these two documents is not one-directional from Matthew to the Didache, but much more complex. Draper (1991) elucidates as follows:

Our contention here is that the Didache is the community rule of the Matthean community, constantly in process of development. Naturally, if this is so, some of its parts will reflect a situation pre-supposed by Matthew's gospel, other parts may reflect a situation after its composition. Only a careful redactional analysis can indicate in which way the influence runs in a specific instance. (p. 372)

Draper goes on to do such a 'careful redactional analysis', the results of which find expression in his 1996 publication, 'The Jesus Tradition in the Didache'. These results entail that Matthew, Luke and the Didache all made independent use of the Sayings Gospel Q, so that neither the Didache nor sections thereof are dependent on the final form of Matthew or Luke. This finding follows in no small way from the observation that '[t]he material the Didache has in common with Matthew and Luke never includes material these evangelists have drawn from Mark' (Draper 1996:90; emphasis original).6 In fact, the influence often seems to run in the other direction, that is, from the Didache, or an earlier version thereof, to Matthew in particular (e.g. Draper 1991:355).

Thirdly, these findings influence Draper's understanding of the relationship between the Didache and the Sayings Gospel Q. To begin with:

the structure of the collected Jesus tradition of the Sayings Gospel Q in the gospels may reflect a communal Sitz im Leben (life setting) which is preserved in the Didache. (Draper 1995:307)

This quotation is from an article that considers the historical references behind the titles 'apostle', 'prophet', 'teacher', 'bishop' and 'deacon' in the Didache. It is conjectured that the 'apostles' were emissaries from Jerusalem who were replaced after the First Jewish-Roman War by 'prophets' from Galilee. The 'prophets', in turn, were refugees from Galilee seeking asylum after being displaced as a result of the First Jewish-Roman War (cf. Draper 1998:576). These people brought knowledge of the Jesus tradition with them, which not only secured their entry into and status within this host community, but also led to the Jesus tradition being recorded as an authoritative community rule within the same community. The 'teachers' were:

the agents of this process of collection and textualization into the body of tradition which we now know as the Sayings Gospel Q and its further incorporation into Matthew and Luke's gospels. (Draper 1995:312)

Finally, the 'bishops' and 'deacons' were 'local patrons or officials' who became 'preservers and interpreters of the textual tradition' (Draper 1995:312). Elsewhere, Draper (1998) summarises:

If I am right in my analysis, then the 'Q' tradition first took concrete shape as a body of teaching after the collapse of the Jerusalem community, i.e., 62-80 C.E. (p. 576)

It should be clear from this overview that Draper views both the Didache and the Sayings Gospel Q as foundational traditions for at least the Matthean community.

This, however, raises questions about the source-critical relationship between the Didache and the Sayings Gospel Q. On the one hand, Draper finds evidence that parts of Q were incorporated into the Didache: 'It appears as if this "Q" material gradually penetrated an existing community rule [earlier version of the Didache], especially in the catechetical section of chapters 1-6' (Draper 1991:354). Draper (1998:576) also believes that the 'prophets' who joined the Matthean or Didache community from Galilee (see above) played a part in the remoulding of earlier Jesus tradition. On the other hand, Draper finds evidence that (an earlier version of) the Didache was already in existence by the time Q came into the picture, and that this document exerted at least some influence on Q. For example, in his investigation of the saying in Q 10:7 and Didache 13:1, Draper (2005:242-243) finds that the Didache was not dependent on Matthew or Luke when using this proverbial saying, but that it rather provides background information against which this Q tradition can be understood. A more important example for our purposes is the article Draper published in 2000(a), applying Victor Turner's theory of ritual process and ritual symbol to Chapters 7-10 of the Didache. These chapters contain prayers that were uttered by insiders when performing baptism and sharing the eucharist. The content of these prayers revolves around 'the concept of incorporation into a new community, an assembly of a renewed kingdom of David/God made known in Jesus the successor of David, the son/child/servant of God' (Draper 2000a:153). When it comes to the significance of Jesus within this community, the emphasis falls on his descent from David and his role as the wisdom of God, not on his death or resurrection. This relates well to Q, which likewise fosters a wisdom Christology and lacks explicit reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus (see also Draper 2007:269, 2010:10, 11) - Q 14:27; 17:33 and Q 13:34-35 notwithstanding (cf. e.g. Smith 2006). From this link between the Didache and the Sayings Gospel Q, as well as earlier findings about the relationship between the Didache and Matthew (see above), Draper (2000a:153) speculates not only that (an earlier version of) the Didache 'could be described as the community rule of the "Q" community', but also that, in Didache 7-10, 'we may have the eucharistic prayers of the "Q" community in their simplicity and coherence'.

Apart from historical and source-critical issues, there are some theological and thematic overlaps between the Didache and Q worth exploring. Some Q scholars may be pleased to learn that Draper's work on the Didache corroborates some aspects of Q research in general. For example, his detailed comparison of the Synoptic material with the Didache:

seems to confirm the hypothesis that sayings of Jesus were collected and circulated in a more or less fixed form, whether oral or written, before the collection was incorporated into the Gospels as we have them. (Draper 1996:90)

Draper (1996:90-91) continues: 'It may be that these collections were already referred to as τò εὐαγγέλιον'. This latter possibility would be welcomed by those who argue that Q should be called a 'Gospel' (e.g. Crossan 1998:31-40; Robinson 1990:viii, 1992:371, 2001:27; see Howes 2015a:89-91). In 2011(b), Draper published an article that applies the economic model of Karl Polanyi to the Didache. One of the article's goals is to determine the extent of overlap between the Didache and Q when it comes to their economic programmes. Draper (2011b:2) articulates this research question as follows: 'Is the moral economy of "Q" maintained and still understood in the Didache's "redaction" [] and how is it further developed?' Draper understands the 'moral economy' of Q mainly along the lines of Horsley's (1999, 2008) proposal, according to which Q's Jesus initiated a prophetic movement of socio-economic and politico-religious renewal among the Galilean peasantry during a time of crisis under Roman rule. According to Draper, the Didache promotes economic practices like hospitality to the needy, general reciprocity and redistribution. Such practices would have established an 'economic safety net' for community members and would have been extremely beneficial to the poor. It was also an alternative to the exploitative economy of the ancient Roman Empire. This economic programme is indeed very similar to the one promoted by Q (see, e.g., Howes 2019; Robinson 1995).

Apart from his work on the Didache, Draper has also produced some publications focusing exclusively on the Sayings Gospel Q. In 1999, Draper contributed three chapters to the book of Richard A. Horsley, Whoever Hears You Hears Me: Prophets, Performance and Tradition in Q. The first of these chapters by Draper (1999a:29-45) argues against the hypothesis by Gerd Theissen and others that the early Jesus movement consisted of 'wandering radicals' (Wanderradikalismus), who were supported economically and otherwise by more stable 'community sympathisers' (see also Draper 1998). According to Draper, Theissen's 'wandering radicals' hypothesis is a scholarly construct based on a circular argument7 that cannot be applied to the prophets mentioned in the Didache, who seem to have been historic charismatic personalities operating in Syria during the second generation of early Christianity (Draper 1999a:45). There is no evidence to indicate that these prophets were itinerant at all (Draper 1999a:45). Hence, to equate some or all of the Q people with Theissen's 'wandering radicals' would be unfounded and anachronistic.

Draper's second chapter in this volume (1999b:175-194) concentrates more directly on the Sayings Gospel Q. Draper applies his extensive knowledge of orality to Q, emphasising that cognisance of its orally derived nature is crucial to a correct interpretation of the Q text. This includes, but is not limited to, its use of 'hidden transcript', 'restricted code' and 'metonymic clues' to communicate the 'little tradition' to the peasant class of ancient Galilee. Drawing on the work of, among others, Dell Hymes (1981), Gregory Nagy (1990) and John Miles Foley (1995), who argue that it is possible to identify and recover oral texts and contexts from written material, Draper reconstructs the oral text and context of Q 12:49-59. He is able to not only identify significant oral features in the text of Q 12:49-59, but also reconstruct aspects of its performative context. Although the chapter focuses on Q 12:49-59, the oral features of Q as a whole are also discussed.

Draper's third chapter in the book (1999c:250-259) investigates Q 3:7-9, 16-17, 21-22 and Q 4:1-13 as oral texts (see also Draper 2000b). The analysis is a response not only to those who regard the temptation passage in Q 4:1-13 as a late addition, but also to those who attempt to stratify the Sayings Gospel in the first place, with particular reference to John S. Kloppenborg. According to Draper, the interplay between oral performance and written text in ancient societies is often overlooked by these scholars, specifically in their diachronic analyses of the temptation passage in Q. Draper (1999c) explains his method as follows, which corresponds precisely with the method he used when analysing Q 12:49-59 (see above):

Here we will first examine the oral text of each discourse in their mnemonic patterning, balance, parallelism, paratactic construction, and linkage. Then we will analyze the metonymic restricted-code referencing in each discourse as indicators of the register(s) and performance context(s), in particular the field and tenor of the performance. (p. 251)

This examination finds that the two passages relate to each other as the announcement and testing of Jesus as prophet, respectively. This finding is then related to the larger literary context to produce the following sequence for the opening of the Sayings Gospel:

the announcement of the prophet [Q 3:7-9, 16-17, 21-22], the testing of the prophet [Q 4:1-13], the prophet enacting the covenant renewal [Q 6:20-49], the confirmation of the prophet's authority [Q 7:2-9], the prophet fulfilling the age-old longings for renewal [Q 7:18-35], and the prophet commissioning envoys to broaden the movement of renewal of Israel [Q 9:57-10:16]. (Draper 1999c:259)8


Andries G. van Aarde

In 1999, Andries van Aarde published an article on the historicity of the figure 'twelve' in relation to the followers of Jesus. The publication compares the Pauline tradition, the Sayings Gospel Q, the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, Acts and Revelation to develop an intricate map of how the tradition of the 'twelve' developed. As far as Q is concerned, attention is devoted to its stratification, mission discourse and the closing logion about the (twelve) thrones and the twelve tribes of Israel. Drawing on the stratigraphy of Q proposed by John S. Kloppenborg (1987a), Van Aarde argues that Mark made use of Q as it appeared after the addition of the 'main redaction' (or Q2). Matthew and Luke made use of Q in its 'final form' (or Q3), after the 'final recension' had already been added. Because the tradition of the 'twelve' appears in Mark but not in Q's formative stratum (or Q1), this tradition goes back to a pre-Markan source. At some stage during the evolution of Q, a list of the 'twelve' became available to those responsible for its production. The Q list of twelve differed from the pre-Markan one and was later used by the authors of Matthew and Luke. Matthew was influenced by both the Markan and the Q lists when drawing up his list of twelve. As far as the mission discourse is concerned, Van Aarde maintains that the historical Jesus did not say that his followers were sent out. The idea of being 'sent out' was added to Q 10:3 by those responsible for Q's formative stratum to make the logion more relevant to the wider Israelite community. Van Aarde also tables the interesting consideration that the woes against the Galilean towns and associated judgement material were added to the mission discourse during Q's third redactional stage and not during its second redactional stage, as Kloppenborg had originally suggested. The Matthean addition of the 'twelve' to the opening of the mission discourse demonstrates for Van Aarde that the number 'twelve' does not go back to the historical Jesus when referring to his immediate followers. Turning finally to the saying in Q 22:28, 30, Van Aarde argues that the redactional activities of Matthew and Luke regarding the 'twelve' thrones of judgement and the 'twelve' tribes of Israel support his view that the figure 'twelve' was introduced by the Jerusalem community after the death of Jesus. Influenced by the post-Easter belief in the resurrection of Jesus, influential male followers of Jesus in the Jerusalem community started the tradition of the 'twelve' to express their conviction that they were the most important apostles and prophets of the 'new Israel' inaugurated by Jesus (see also Van Aarde 2004a). This finding is corroborated by the other traditions that also receive consideration in the article (i.e. Paul, Acts, John and Revelation).

In 2002, Van Aarde published an Afrikaans article on the development of the expression 'Son of Man' in the Jesus tradition. An English version of the article was published 2 years later in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, featuring the title 'Jesus and the Son of Man: A Shift from the "Little Tradition" to the "Great Tradition"' (Van Aarde 2004b). The contribution argues that the expression 'Son of Man' was used by the historical Jesus when delivering his subversive wisdom to the peasants of the little tradition, referencing humankind in general. Subsequently, the followers of Jesus associated the expression with the apocalyptic Son of Man, using it as a title for Jesus in terms of the scribal great tradition. Van Aarde illustrates this development by using as a case study Q 9:58, the logion about the Son of Man not having anywhere to lay his head. It is argued that this logion originally compared animals and human beings to address the situation of poverty and decline experienced by ancient peasants as a result of Israel's incorporation into the Roman Empire. This message was subsequently changed by interpreting the same logion as applying to Jesus in particular, but also warning his followers that they might share in his hardships. This development probably took place during the production of Q, influencing Matthew and Luke. These findings are ultimately related to the broader context of both historical Jesus studies and Q research. Explaining that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the historical Jesus and later developments, Van Aarde argues that the Son of Man tradition reveals a development from an oral, sapiential message delivered by the historical Jesus during his lifetime as part of the 'little tradition', to an apocalyptic, written message delivered by his followers after his death as part of the 'great tradition'.

In 2009, Van Aarde put forward a postcolonial, African reading of the same logion in Q 9:58. Considering the logion on the levels of the historical Jesus, the Sayings Gospel Q and the Gospel of Matthew, Van Aarde discusses the relevance of this saying for the South African context, including especially the reality of severe poverty and criminality in contemporary South Africa. Finally, in 2011, Van Aarde published an article on resurrection in the Synoptic tradition, focusing on the tradition that followers of Jesus will one day sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. A detailed comparison between Matthew 19:27-29, on the one hand, and Q 22:28, 30, Mark 10:28-31 and Luke 22:24-30, on the other, concludes that Matthew understood the term παλιγγενεσία to mean 'regeneration' rather than 'resurrection'.


Gerhard Nel (with Andries van Aarde)

Emanating from a Master's study supervised by Andries van Aarde at the University of Pretoria on ethics in the Sayings Gospel Q, Gerhard Nel copublished an article in 1994 with Van Aarde. It argues that the ethical programme of Jesus was not rooted in imminent or apocalyptic eschatology, but in his sapiential message. Nel continued this line of research under the supervision of Van Aarde, completing in 2001 the second doctoral study to be conducted on Q in South Africa, entitled 'Die etiese uitsprake van Jesus: Apocalipties-Eskatologies of Eties-Eskatologies gegrond?' [The Ethical Statements of Jesus: Grounded in Apocalyptic Eschatology or Ethical Eschatology?]. Building on the 'symbolic eschatology' of Kloppenborg (1987b) and the so-called 'secondary apocalyptic eschatology' of Crossan (1998:260-271), Nel argues that Q's Jesus advocated an ethical programme that understood God's kingdom as a present reality. Nel then applies this 'ethical eschatology' to both the parable of the Mustard Seed in Q 13:18-19 and the pericope about John the Baptist in Q 7:18-20, 31-35. The study finds that the ethical programme of Jesus remains relevant today mainly because it is not apocalyptic or eschatological in the traditional sense. In 2002, Nel and Van Aarde copublished an article on the kingdom of God according to Q, where they argue that the kingdom of God refers in the Sayings Gospel Q to 'an alternative lifestyle in the here and now' (Nel & Van Aarde 2002:1113). In the same contribution, they draw out the implications of this alternative lifestyle for the church today. A year later (2003), Nel published an article that considers the history of Q research and defends not only its existence in the first place, but also its sapiential nature and the ability of scholars to distinguish between 'traditional' and 'redactional' material.


Yolanda Dreyer

Yolanda Dreyer, a friend and long-time colleague of Andries van Aarde at the University of Pretoria, published an article on Q in 2000. The article considers not only the tradition history of Q, but also the Christology of Q in its final form (after the addition of Q2 and Q3), which describes Jesus as the Son of Man, Judge and Son of God. Following Kloppenborg's (1987a) stratigraphy, but not ignoring other form-critical, redaction-critical and tradition-critical scholars like Rudolf Bultmann, Siegfried Schultz, Dieter Lührmann, Dieter Zeller, Burton Mack and Dale C. Allison, Dreyer develops a tradition history of Q. According to Dreyer, the subversive wisdom of Q1 was reinterpreted and expanded by Q2 and Q3 as a result of conflict between the scribes of Q and scribes of the Galilean and Judean administrations. Some of these added traditions derived from Jesus' own historical clashes with the Galilean and Judean administrations, but were reapplied to the Q people's own circumstances. These were the conditions under which honorary titles were given to Jesus by the Q scribes. In particular, 'Son of Man' was applied to Jesus as a title in Q2 and 'Son of God' in Q3. Two other important aspects were added to Q during its recension, namely, (1) apocalyptic eschatology, which was introduced during the recension of Q2 and expanded during the creation of Q3, and (2) the mission discourse of Q2 developed a 'universal' perspective during the recension of Q3. The ultimate theology of Q3 reflects a particular view of Israel's salvation history, which is determined not only by Q's unique deuteronomistic perspective, but also by Q's imminent apocalyptic eschatology - features that were added during Q's recension. Jesus is the decisive figure in this salvation history, although Q does not understand Jesus as a or the Messiah. Instead:

Q sees Jesus as the Son of Man who will come at the end of time, but also as the one who has already been sent by God to fulfill a specific mission in this world. (Dreyer 2000:282)

As 'Son of Man', Jesus will come again to judge and separate between those who accepted his message and those who did not (cf. esp. Q 11:29-32; 13:18-19, 20-21, 28-29, 34-35; 22:30). As 'Son of God', Jesus has a special relationship with the Father, knows his divine will and acts accordingly (cf. esp. Q 4:1-13; 10:22).


Nicholas Taylor

In recent research, the Galilean provenance of Q has been accepted almost without question. In 2003, Nicholas Taylor challenged this consensus with his article on the provenance of Q. Taylor (2003) considers eight factors that seem to speak against a Galilean provenance of Q:

(1) the nature and definition of Q, and its relationship to other Jesus traditions; (2) the language of Q; (3) scribal skills in rural Galilee; (4) the purpose in committing Q to writing; (5) geographical allusions in the reconstructed document; (6) the nature of itinerancy in the mission charge; (7) Israelite traditions and institutions; and (8) Q and primitive Christian kerygma. (p. 283)

The likelihood that Q was a written Greek document by the time it was incorporated by Matthew and Luke plays a significant role in Taylor's (2003) argumentation:

The cumulative weight of these factors suggests that Q was committed to writing, not in the oral setting of Aramaic speaking rural Galilee, but in a context in which Greek was the language of instruction in the community. (p. 306)

It is important to note that Taylor does not deny that the traditions that make up Q originated in Galilee, but rather argues that the written document used by Matthew and Luke was not written in Galilee. Taylor ultimately suggests a setting outside Palestine, but leaves this as a possibility to be explored by future research.


Markus Cromhout

In 2005, Markus Cromhout submitted the third doctoral study on Q to appear in South Africa, also under the supervision of Andries van Aarde, entitled 'The Reconstruction of Judean Ethnicity in Q'. Taking all the complexities of Judean ethnicity in the 1st century into account, Cromhout argues, firstly, that Galileans were ethnically Judean, and, secondly, that the Q people identified themselves as ethnically Judean, but abandoned certain identity markers of Judean ethnicity, especially covenantal nomism. The study's most significant contribution is arguably its nuanced explanation of the continuities and discontinuities between traditional Judean ethnicity and Q's modified Judean ethnicity. An article followed in 2006 from this doctoral study, arguing that Q's treatment of the Torah can tell us a lot about the ethnic identity of the Q people. Cromhout follows Kloppenborg's (1987a) stratigraphical model for the most part, arguing that although the first layer is subversive in its approach to the Torah, the redactional material is very conservative about the Torah. It is further proposed that the redactional material was added in part because the Q people needed to defend its own Judean ethnic identity. Cromhout's doctoral study was published as a monograph in 2007, under the title Jesus and Identity: Reconstructing Judean Ethnicity in Q. In 2015, at a Symposium held in honour of the biblical scholar Wim Weren, Cromhout delivered a paper entitled 'Jesus and his Band of Rebellious Sons: In Conversation with Jerome Neyrey'. After an investigation of Q's content, the paper concludes preliminarily that the Q people were an itinerant and homeless band of rebellious sons, who had abandoned (with their wives) the traditional family.


Llewellyn Howes

The fourth doctoral study to appear in South Africa on the Sayings Gospel Q was also supervised by Andries van Aarde. In 2012, Llewellyn Howes submitted his doctoral thesis, arguing that the Sayings Gospel Q depicts Jesus as a teacher of wisdom who subscribed to a non-imminent, non-apocalyptic eschatology. Q therefore supports the sapiential image of Jesus proffered by the Renewed Quest, but not the idea that Jesus was completely non-eschatological. A thoroughly reworked version of the doctoral study was published as a monograph in 2015(a), under the title Judging Q and Saving Jesus: Q's Contribution to the Wisdom-Apocalypticism Debate in Historical Jesus Studies. Based on the exegetical work in previous chapters, the closing chapter of the book lists five aspects of Q to illustrate that it understood Jesus in the first place as a sage: (1) Q's genre, (2) Q's stratigraphy, (3) Q's logia about the Son of Man, (4) Q's logia about the kingdom of God and (5) Q's parables. This does not mean that eschatology is thrown out with the bathwater:

Although Q's Jesus is a teacher of wisdom, he is also portrayed in Q both as appealing to eschatology in support of his sapiential message, and as reaching conclusions about the specific nature of the eschatological end from the content of his wisdom. (2015a:293)

The study further finds that Q's eschatology is never imminent or urgent, and only sometimes apocalyptic. Despite these nuances, Q's Jesus remains a sage first and foremost: 'Jesus is portrayed in Q as a sage whose particular brand of wisdom was often eschatological, not as an eschatological prophet whose particular brand of eschatology was sapiential' (2015a:296). The same kind of claim is also made in relation to Q's possible depiction of Jesus as a prophet: 'Jesus is portrayed in Q as a sage whose particular brand of wisdom was often prophetic, not as a prophet whose particular brand of prophecy was sapiential' (2015a:299). Howes (2015a) explains further that:

the wisdom of Q's Jesus is prophetic both in the sense that it makes predictions about the future and in the sense that it takes a stand for the subjugated against the subjugators. (p. 299)

A final feature of the monograph that does not appear in the original dissertation is perhaps worth mentioning, namely, that a genuine attempt is made in Chapter 5 to illustrate how the bridge between the Sayings Gospel Q and the historical Jesus can be traversed.

The mainstay and focus of Howes' research after his doctoral study has been the stratification of Q. From 2013 to 2017, Howes published a series of 11 articles on Q that reconsider the allocation of certain texts to Kloppenborg's formative stratum. Accepting Kloppenborg's (1987a) stratigraphy in its general outline, Howes applies the same criteria to distinguish between Q's formative and redactional layers. The following texts receive consideration: Q 10:21-24 (2013a); Q 11:14-15, 17-20 (2017a); Q 11:33, 34-35 (2013b); Q 12:39-40 (2014a); Q 12:42-46 (2015b, 2015c); Q 12:58-59 (2017b); Q 13:25-27 (2016a); Q 14:16-21, 23 (2015e) and Q 19:12-13, 15-24, 26 (2016b).9 Despite their focus on the stratigraphy of Q, these articles are also valuable for their exegesis and interpretation of individual Q texts. For example, the article on Q 12:58-59 argues that this logion exposes the ancient judicial system for the corrupt and exploitative system that it actually was. The article on Q 13:25 (2016a) holds that this saying has ancient farm workers in mind, exposing their dependency on the hospitality of others for food and shelter. Similarly, the article on Q 14:16-21, 23 (2015e) maintains that this parable advocates general reciprocity and hospitality as a means of feeding the poor. The article on Q 19:12-13, 15-24, 26 (2016b) argues that this parable should be understood as a challenge parable (see Crossan 2012:45-112), challenging the exploitative economic system of antiquity and encouraging people of all social stations to stand up for the most vulnerable in society.10

Yet, not all of his publications focus on stratigraphy. In 2013(c), Howes published an article on the Son of Man tradition in the 'final' form of Q, finding that Q remembered Jesus using the Son of Man expression both as a non-titular self-reference in the third person and as a reference to Daniel 7:13. In 2014(b), Howes published an article on the saying not to judge in Q 6:37-38 and the widespread ancient belief of psychostasia, which is the idea that one's soul will be weighed after death to determine one's fate in the afterlife. During the same year, Howes (2014c, 2014d) published two articles on the verb 'judge' [κρίνω] in Q 22:28, 30. Taking into consideration the verb's lexical possibilities, literary context in Q and intertextual relationship with the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls and the pseudepigraphical Psalms of Solomon, Howes argues that it should be understood to mean 'condemn' and not 'liberate', 'redeem' or 'rule', as some other scholars have suggested. Although all of his conference papers cannot be listed here, most of which find expression in his written work anyway, one paper is perhaps worth mentioning as part of the current discussion. In 2014(e), Howes delivered a paper at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in San Diego, arguing that the so-called 'mission discourse' in Q's formative stratum (i.e. Q 10:2-11, 16) was not originally meant to be understood metaphorically, but was rather intended as literal advice for ancient farm workers and day labourers.11 Getting back to his written publications, Howes produced an article in 2015(f) that analyses the parable of the Loyal and Wise Slave in Q 12:42-46 against the background of agricultural slavery in the ancient world, taking Jewish, Greco-Roman and Egyptian literature into account. A year later, as part of a special edition of the journal Acta Theologica that focused on the socially disadvantaged and poor in society, Howes (2016c) attempted an interpretation of this parable based on its purported form in Q's first stratum. Essentially, the Q1 form of the parable is interpreted as encouraging Jewish leadership to take care of the physical and nutritional needs of their subjects. According to Howes, feeding their subjects was, for Q's formative stratum, the most important task of concurrent Jewish leaders. In the same year, Howes (2016d) published an article arguing that the idea of divine fatherhood was the primary paradigm that informed, determined and motivated the alternative socio-ethical programme of Q's formative stratum. The article eventually turns to the notion of 'mutual-mothering', contemplating the implications of this alternative socio-ethical programme for women in the Q movement. In 2018, Howes reconsidered the placement or position of Q 12:58-59 in the Sayings Gospel, boldly claiming that the article 'represents the most extensive treatment of this issue to date' (2018:144). Ultimately, Howes finds that 'the balance of the evidence does indeed support the majority opinion favouring Lukan placement' (2018:170), but not without problematising some of the arguments often made to support Lukan placement in the process. Finally, in 2019, Howes published an article on the message of Q to the peasantry and poor in ancient society. The publication features in an edition of the journal HTS Theological Studies that is dedicated to the South African New Testament scholar Eben Scheffler, 'whose concern for the poor and marginalised shines through in his research' (Howes 2019:11). In this article, the spotlight falls on three specific Q texts, namely, Q 7:24-28, Q 10:5-9 and Q 11:9-13. These texts tell the peasantry and poor that they are important and that they must rely on the hospitality and kindness of others to survive.


Gert Malan

Many Q scholars regard it as anachronistic to think of the Q community as a 'church', or to think of the Q people as 'Christians'. Instead, the Q people seem not to have viewed Jesus as a or the Messiah, not to have acknowledged a chosen group of disciples as their trained leaders, not to have placed much emphasis on the death or resurrection of Jesus (if any), and not to have followed the teachings of Jesus for the sake of post-mortem salvation. As part of a research project on 'Biblical Theology and Hermeneutic' steered by Van Aarde, Gert Malan (2007) asks in his article, 'Die Q1 gemeenskap as een van die grondtipes van die kerk in die Nuwe Testament' ['The Q1 Community as Prototype of the Church in the New Testament'], whether those responsible for Q's formative stratum should not, in fact, be viewed as a prototype of the church. Drawing especially on the work of Burton Mack (1993), Malan considers whether the description of the kingdom of God in Q1 brings one close to something akin to 'Christian' thought. The concept and metaphor of God's kingdom is for Malan very important in understanding the self-perception of those responsible for Q's first layer. According to Malan, the Jesus of Q1 was a sage and not an apocalyptic prophet. Drawing on the subversive wisdom of Jesus, the Q1 people understood the kingdom of God as an alternative world and ethic that obliterates conventional wisdom, thereby opening up new possibilities of healing and living. Such an alternative symbolic universe includes social, political, historical, emotional and psychological dimensions, requiring a profound paradigm shift. The Q1 people understood themselves as embodying, living and sharing this alternative symbolic universe. If this is true, a question is introduced about the extent to which the church can be seen as a continuation of this Jesus movement. Malan argues that there is indeed continuity between the Q1 community and the Christian church, especially in the sense that both regard themselves as Jesus followers who embody the kingdom of God in this world. Moreover, Malan argues for continuity between the kingdom-of-God concept as understood by the historical Jesus and the Q1 community, respectively. The article closes by challenging the stubborn attachment of the contemporary Christian church to not only apocalyptic eschatology, but also the death and resurrection of Jesus as the only means to salvation. It asks whether an ethical and emotional attachment to the kingdom of God, as the concept was understood by Jesus and his first followers, is not perhaps more important than these doctrinal loyalties. In this way, the Q1 community may be viewed not only as a prototype of the church, but also as a prototype for the church.


Marius Nel12

Comparing the worldviews of Mark and Q, Marius Nel discovers areas of both overlap and distinctiveness. According to Nel, the most distinctive feature of Q when compared to Mark is the former's continued commitment to the covenant, the Jerusalem Temple and the Torah. The distinctiveness of the Jewish people over against the greater gentile world remains for the Q people an important identity marker, even though they have been rejected and perhaps even persecuted by their own kin. For Nel, the greatest area of overlap between Mark and Q is their imminent apocalyptic worldview, despite distinct emphases. Nel (2014) lists a host of features in Q that he regards as typically apocalyptic, but the following statement probably summarises his assessment best:

Q is permeated with apocalypticism as the product of an early apocalyptic community and describing Jesus as a prophet who commands a certain way of living representing the renewed Israel, battling with the established religious authorities and Satan, and warning of imminent judgment and punishment for evil ones. (p. 90)



The aim of this article was not just to summarise research on Q in South Africa, but also to determine whether or not any trends could be identified in this regard. This would indeed seem to be the case. To begin with, most of the scholars considered here accept John Kloppenborg's (sometimes together with Burton Mack's) proposed stratigraphy of Q - if not with regard to each individual text, at least in broad terms. In fact, Kloppenborg's stratigraphy is foundational to all but three of the studies are considered here. Out of these three, Nicholas Taylor and Marius Nel do not oppose his stratigraphy, but focus in their articles on the 'final' Q text. The only scholar who expressly opposes Kloppenborg's stratigraphy is Jonathan Draper, but he nonetheless takes the proposal seriously enough to devote significant space to its refutation.

Those familiar with Q studies will immediately notice that the next few discernible trends in South African scholarship on Q are directly related to the first. It is not difficult to notice in the research considered here a tendency to award the sapiential traditions in Q chronological and/or substantive priority, which then leads to the conclusion that the historical Jesus was a subversive sage and that apocalyptic, eschatological and/or prophetic traditions were either subsidiary to the wisdom of Jesus or added after Jesus died. Incidentally, those who devote attention to Q's redaction tend to focus specifically on its deuteronomistic and judgemental aspects, viewing these as products of polemical elaboration after Easter. Conversely, those who consider Q in its 'final' form tend to see Q's Jesus as a (social or apocalyptic) prophet. Another observable trend is the particular interest in Q's understanding of God's kingdom, especially on the level of Q's formative stratum. Given this focus, it is no surprise that God's kingdom is viewed by most of these scholars as a present reality. It is also here that one recognises an overlap with Draper. Although he opposes the stratigraphy of Q and does not view Jesus in the first place as a sage, he regards the kingdom of God as a present reality. One may also identify in the research considered here a focus on the expression 'Son of Man'. This focus parallels the earlier trends by maintaining that the historical Jesus used the expression 'Son of Man' in a non-titular, sapiential way, while the early church applied it to the apocalyptic figure in the book of Daniel and associated this figure with Jesus during his Parousia.

The focus on God's kingdom as a present, non-eschatological reality is undoubtedly related to Q's actual content, but it is also directly related to another discernible trend of South African Q scholarship, namely, a tendency to be influenced by the South African context. This is a feature of New Testament scholarship in South Africa more generally. Being in the grips of political, economic and social difficulty, there is a real desire and need for research of all kinds to be contextually relevant. Appreciating and learning from the social, economic and political messages of Q, especially its first layer, are therefore important for these researchers. Conversely, the content of Q lends itself particularly to socio-economic and liberationist African readings, dealing as it does with issues of homelessness, poverty, inequality, hospitality, food, clothing, shelter, survival, reciprocity, healing, exorcism, systemic injustice, exploitation and imperialism. It is therefore not at all surprising to see South African researchers focusing on these aspects of Q. Related to this is the tendency in South African scholarship to not only suppress apocalyptic and eschatological traditions, as we saw, but to also highlight the silence of Q on the messiahship, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is as if African scholars are petitioning for a tangible, corporeal alternative to the usual theology that placates the poor with 'a pie in the sky when you die'. Ethereal assurances are no longer good enough for a country that faces real-life problems in the here-and-now. This general stance also explains the focus in South African Q research on not only the ethics of Q, but also the relevance of Q's content for the church today. Practical concerns and contemporary relevance seem to be high on the priority list.

A noticeable shortcoming of Q research in South Africa, however, is the contribution of black scholars. It is impossible to look at the names and surnames listed here without noticing that there are no black scholars contributing to Q scholarship in South Africa at the moment. In this regard, Q studies are markedly different from other New Testament studies in South Africa. Despite this shortcoming, it is encouraging to see South Africans considering Q from liberationist and postcolonial perspectives. These developments within South African Q research are very promising, and follow in the humanitarian footsteps of Andries van Aarde, including his research focus on issues of inequality and poverty in South Africa, Africa and the world (e.g. Van Aarde 2009, 2016).

A few smaller trends may also be listed here in brief. Although some of the scholars here follow the international trend of assuming a Galilean provenance for Q, there seems to be a tendency among South African scholars to question this consensus. These latter scholars tend to argue that Q was written outside of Palestine, even if the traditions that make up Q derive from Galilee. Syria is often mentioned as a preferred option, and Hartin narrows it down even further to Antioch. Another minor trend is a focus on the orality of Q, which makes sense for a country and continent that has been and continues to be richly blessed with oral traditions. There also seem to be a few favourite texts chosen from Q for analysis by South African scholars. The two most obvious examples are the 'concluding' logion in Q 22:28, 30 and the mission discourse in Q 10:1-16. Predictably, treatments of these texts have included discussions of topics like itinerancy and the renewal of Israel. The latter is, of course, also relevant to the notion of God's kingdom being a present reality, as well as the applicability of Q to contemporary concerns, including in no small way the social, economic and political renewal of Africa.

The last trend to be highlighted here is not a theme or a text but a person. Like a golden thread running through this article, one name of a South African scholar keeps popping up: Andries G. van Aarde. It would not be an exaggeration to say that his influence has kept Q studies alive in South Africa. Apart from his own research on Q, he supervised the doctoral studies by Gerhard Nel, Marcus Cromhout and Llewellyn Howes. He also supervised Master's studies on Q, copublished articles on Q with other scholars and steered projects that involved research on Q. If Q research lives on in South Africa, it will do so in the work of his students and colleagues, and it will be because of his influence. This is one of the many legacies that Andries will leave behind. The Afrikaans surname 'Van Aarde' literally means 'from the earth', which explains the second level of meaning in the title of this article.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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Llewellyn Howes

Received: 01 Mar. 2019
Accepted: 21 Mar. 2019
Published: 30 Apr. 2019



1. For example, Botha 1996; Deist 1993; Thirion 1997; Stander 2005; Viljoen 2008; 2009.
2. For example, Bazzana 2014; Foster 2015; Grundeken 2012; Peters 2016; Schmithals 2008; Schröter 1996; Sim 2000; Tripp 2013.
3. Engelbrecht (1996), for example, critically considered the contribution of two Markan commentaries that were written from the perspective of the Griesbach hypothesis, finding that these two commentaries fail to explain source-critical issues sufficiently. He remains more convinced by the Two-Source Hypothesis.
4. For a concise introduction to the Didache, see Draper (2010).
5. Other publications by Draper also deal with this issue, including most notably his 1996 publication, 'The Jesus Tradition in the Didache', which will also receive consideration below. Not all of these publications are considered here because most of them only treat this issue in passing as part of broader discussions (e.g. Draper 2005:224-225, 2007:259-260, 2008:174-175, 2010:7-13, 2011a:568).
6. Draper (1996:85) explains: 'If the Didache had our Synoptic Gospels in their present form before it, it seems hard to understand how he could consistently have excluded Markan material present in Matthew and Luke and only drawn on "Q" material. It would seem a more likely inference that the Didache had access directly to the so-called "Q" material, either in a written or an oral form'.
7. According to Draper, Theissen's hypothesis of Christian origins is largely based on Max Weber's theory of charisma, which, in turn, draws heavily on Adolf von Harnack's description of Christian origins.
8. It is, at least, interesting to compare this analysis by Draper with Kloppenborg's recent publication (2018:49-72), entitled 'Oral and Literate Contexts for the Sayings Gospel Q'.
9. This list only features 10 publications. The missing publication is an article that discusses all of these texts in less detail, but makes the same basic argument (2015d).
10. At the moment, Howes is in the process of reworking these articles to produce a monograph on the stratification of Q that will reassess the content, extent and unity of Q's Formative Stratum.
11. Howes is currently in the process of developing this argument further as part of a second doctoral degree. He is currently registered for a PhD in Greek at the University of Johannesburg. The working title of his PhD thesis is 'Ancient Advice for Non-Servile Farm Workers: A Radical Rereading of the So-Called "Mission Discourse" in the Sayings Gospel Q'.
12. This Marius Nel is affiliated with North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. He is not to be confused with Marius Nel from Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

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Missional branding: A case study of the Church of Pentecost



Peter White

Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





Branding is a strategy designed by companies to help patrons or consumers quickly identify their products or organisations and give them a reason to choose their products or organisations over other competitors. In the Old Testament, God identified the Israelites as a unique brand. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ branded the church with the power of the Holy Spirit, miracles, signs and wonders. Reading the Acts of the Apostles, the church developed a brand of being Spirit-filled, communal-living and mission-minded. It was out of this that early believers in Antioch were called 'Christians'. The name 'Christian' therefore became a brand name for believers and followers of Jesus Christ. In view of this, one would expect that the concept of branding would be a major tool for modern-day churches. Although there are several publications on branding from the perspective of marketing and management, there is no such academic research on missional branding, hence this research. This article contributes to the interdisciplinary discourse on branding, with specific reference to the missional branding of the Church of Pentecost.

Keywords: Branding; Missional branding; The Church of Pentecost; Pentecostalism; Mission.




Christian organisations and branding are not in fact at war, nor are they mutually exclusive. Through the journey of evangelism and social responsibility by the church, significant changes have occurred in administrative and management culture regarding its brand, which should be seen reflecting in the church's own practices. Branding is increasingly considered a contemporary development that continues to reshape an organisation's identity (Aaker 1996:70,78). The effective performance of the church as an organisation depends not only on the available resources but also its brand as required by the organisation from time to time. Reading the Acts of the Apostles, the church developed a brand of being Spirit-filled, communal-living and mission-minded (Ac 2:42-47; 4:23-24, 32-37). It was out of this that early believers in Antioch were called 'Christians'. The name 'Christian' therefore became a brand name for believers and followers of Jesus Christ (Ac 11:19-26).

The church is regarded as a cohesive organism, which learns to adopt or find better ways of doing things essentially in response to its environment. The question arises as to what really the church should do to maintain or to optimise its situation in its environment? Should it focus on its financial situation, technology or brand? Lyon (2000:76) argues that faith brand building is a key source of sustainable advantage of the church because of an increasing rate of secularisation making a religious choice linked to making a choice of supermarkets, cafeteria or 'consumer items' that can be purchased.

God identified the Israelites as a unique brand in a foreign land; for this reason one would expect that the concept of branding would be a major tool for modern-day churches. On the contrary, church branding has been pushed away from the centre stage of theological discourse, and it is regarded as undermining and weakening the Christian's commitment to God and religion. It is assumed that worshipping the Supreme God does not depend on brand personality, brand democracy, brand affinity, brand name or logo. However, everything is such a strong force that hardly anything goes unbranded.

Although there are several publications on branding from the perspectives of marketing and management (Aaker 1996; Andrivet 2015; Kornberger 2010; Shadel 2014), there is no such academic research on missional branding, hence this research. This article contributes to the interdisciplinary discourse on branding and development, with specific reference to the missional branding of the Church of Pentecost.

I want to emphasise at this point that the purpose of this article is not to project branding ahead of the missional role of the Holy Spirit and the role of missional discernment of what God is leading the church to do in a particular context. Rather, it seeks to present missional branding as one of the missional tools that can help churches in participating in the missio Dei.


Branding defined

The modern word 'brand' is derived from the word brandr, a word from Ancient Norse meaning 'to burn'.

Branding is the process of giving meaning to a specific company, products or services by creating and shaping a brand in consumers' minds (Shadel 2014). It is a strategy designed by companies to help people to quickly identify their products or organisations and give them a reason to choose their products or organisations over other competitors. On the most basic level, branding is a phenomenon that links and reorganises the two fundamental spheres of production and consumption, which have been separated since the industrial revolution. It transforms how we manage an organisation's identity, its culture and innovation (Kornberger 2010:xi).

Today, branding is a management weapon of choice to structure the internal functions of organisations (Kornberger 2010:10). Companies tend to use different tools to create and shape a brand. For example, branding can be achieved through advertising and communications, product and packaging design, in-store experience, pricing, sponsoring and partnerships, as well as the visual identity of the brand (e.g. logo, website and colours) (Andrivet 2015).

The branding process involves creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer's mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers (Business Dictionary 2018).

Conceptualising missional branding

Missional branding can be traced as far back as to the period of the Old Testament when God selected the Israelites as a unique people on earth. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ branded the church with the power of the Holy Spirit, miracles, signs and wonders (Ac 1:8, 2:1-3, 3:1-7, 4:31, 33). Peter's statement that:

you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Pe 2:9)

is a brand statement that has set out Christians as a special brand in light of other religions.

Missional branding is the process by which churches and missionary organisations present themselves as a unique entity with a unique call in their participation in the missio Dei. This happens through their names, logo, colour branding, vision and mission statement, leadership structure, sermon content, style of music, architectural design of their church buildings as well as the set-up of their worship environment. Missional branding can also be seen in the call of a church, missionary organisation or a person to a specific group of people, region, country or continent. This can be clearly seen in the call of Apostle Paul to the Gentiles. His missional brand was therefore focused on the Gentiles (Ac 9:15; Rm 1:5).

Missional branding is necessary when religion is seen as a product, most especially as worshippers are increasingly becoming brand conscious. According to Aaker (1996:86-87), the core identity for a strong brand should be more resistant to change than elements of extended identity. Thus, the brand position and communication strategies may change and so might the extended identity, but the core identity is more timeless.

This implies that if you get the values and culture of the organisation right, the brand identity takes care of its self. Core understanding of Aaker's (1996:68-87) brand identity can be said to be the case of the Christian religion and for that matter the Church of Pentecost, which has become a recognised brand as far as Classical Pentecostalism in Ghana is concerned.


History of the Church of Pentecost

The beginning of the Church of Pentecost is linked to the ministry of Pastor James McKeown (1900-1989), an Irish missionary sent by the Apostolic Church, Bradford, UK, to the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1937 to help a group of believers of the Apostolic Faith led by one Peter Newman Anim in a town called Asamankese (The Church of Pentecost 2018c). James McKeown was born on 12 September 1900 in Glenboig, a village of Lanarkshire in Scotland. His parents originated from Antrim, Northern Ireland. The McKeowns relocated to Coatbridge near Glasgow soon after the birth of James. He left school at the age of 11 to help his father on the farm. McKeown's father, who was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Antrim, became interested in Pentecostalism, which was new in the UK. He joined the Elim Pentecostal Church in 1908.

In October 1936, the Missionary Secretary of the Apostolic Church - UK, Pastor Vivian Wellings, visited Apostle Peter Newman Anim's group at Asamankese in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The visit was to strengthen the relationship between the Gold Coast Church and the British Apostolic Church, which eventually led to a permanent missionary, named James McKeown, sent to the Gold Coast in 1937 (Debrunner 1967:324; Omenyo 2006:94-95). The request for a missionary was to help Apostle Anim's group to understand the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and also to help establish the Apostolic Church in the Gold Coast. The strong desire by the Gold Coast Church for a white British missionary was also probably to gain national recognition at a time the Gold Coast was under British colonial rule.

Peter Anim's early association with the Faith Tabernacle Church, US, convinced him that divine healing was to be pursued in times of sickness rather than the use of medicine. These teachings had been emphasised in his church. Thus, when McKeown taught otherwise that there was nothing wrong in seeking medical help from medical practitioners whilst putting faith in God for healing, there was strong resistance from the leadership of the Gold Coast Apostolic Church.

By June 1938, two groups had emerged on doctrinal lines, Peter Anim's group with headquarters at Asamankese, who later in June 1939 officially ended affiliation with the Apostolic Church and adopted the name Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), and James McKeown's group with headquarters at Winneba, maintaining the name Apostolic Church, Gold Coast (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005:23).

McKeown continued to serve as a missionary of the UK Apostolic Church for 15 years before seceding in 1953 to form his own organisation, the Gold Coast Apostolic Church. He was aware that the mainline churches westernised their worship and practices and therefore had very little attraction for the ordinary people.

McKeown's strategy was therefore to contextualise the gospel into the local context and develop a mode of worship and practices that would attract indigenes who would eventually lead the church. At the initial stages, the church experienced slow growth because of language and cultural barriers. The church began to experience tremendous growth from the mid-1940s, with the conversion of some literate and dedicated people who served as his interpreters. By the end of 1952, 512 local congregations had been established throughout Ghana, with about 10 000 members and at least 53 ordained African full-time pastors (Larbi 2001:180; Leonard 1989:28).

McKeown and his wife Sophia moved from Winneba to the Cape Coast in 1942 and finally to the capital, Accra, in 1948. In August 1962, McKeown's church, the Gold Coast Apostolic Church, was changed to 'the Church of Pentecost' (Larbi 2001:210-211).

McKeown administered the affairs of the church with the help of an Executive Council until 1982 when he retired and returned to Northern Ireland. He handed over the Chairmanship to Rev. Steve Fred Safo in 1982.

The regime (1982-1987) of Rev. Steve Fred Safo was an entirely indigenous Executive Council and General Council. Rev. Safo died in 1987 and was succeeded in 1988 by Rev. Martinson Kwadwo Yeboah who retired in 1998 at the age of 74. He was then succeeded by Apostle Dr Michael Ntumy (Walker 2010:115). From 2008 to August 2018, the chairmanship was handled by Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah (Asamoah Akowuah 2013:23-26). In May 2018, Apostle Eric Kwabena Nyamekye was elected to succeed Apostle Prof. Onyinah.

The Church of Pentecost currently operates in 99 countries headed by apostles, prophets, evangelists and senior pastors throughout the world and about 20 863 local assemblies in 2253 districts. Presently, the global membership of the church stands at about 3 million, with children constituting about 988 086. The Church of Pentecost has 130 959 church officers at all levels and 2386 ordained ministers across the world. Benin and Cote D'Ivoire are the two autonomous nations of the church following the massive growth of the church in those two countries (The Church of Pentecost, Statistics 2018e).

The missional branding of the Church of Pentecost

Just as we have multiple senses, a church brand touches many areas of ministry - greetings, music, website, visuals, preaching, community interaction with staff and congregation (Scott-Lundy 2017). Since its inception the Church of Pentecost branded itself as a church noted for evangelism followed with miracles, discipleship, well-defined administrative structure and leadership development (The Church of Pentecost, Chairman's Circular 1989 and 1991).

As part of the introductory statement of Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah in the vision for 2018, he wrote:

I particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Chairman M. K. Yeboah, who initiated the idea of giving annual themes and Chairman M.K. Ntumy who did not only formalise the giving of the annual themes but also introduced vision statements. May the Lord bless both of them and may their legacies live on forever. (The Church of Pentecost, Vision 2018, 2014:8)

Apostle Onyinah also acknowledged the structures being put in place by his predecessors in order to help the church achieve its missional call (The Church of Pentecost, Vision 2018, 2014:8). Through these approaches, the Church of Pentecost has branded itself as the first Classical Pentecostal Church in Ghana with a strategic missional brand. The following are some of the ways the Church of Pentecost branded itself for missional purposes.

Brand name: The Church of Pentecost

Name of a product is very important in branding. Therefore, many brand advocates usually see it as one of the things to consider when choosing a name for a product or institution. According to the Business Dictionary (2018), the process of branding involves creating a unique name and image for a product or organisation in the mind of patrons and/or consumers, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.

Since 01 August 1962 when the name of the church was changed from Ghana Apostolic Church to the Church of Pentecost, the brand name has really worked for the church in how Ghanaians accepted it to be a church with a name linked to the event that happened on the day of Pentecost. Currently in Ghana, the Church of Pentecost is found in every community. As of December 2017, the church has recorded about 20 863 local assemblies in 2253 districts worldwide (The Church of Pentecost, Statistics 2018e; see also Onyinah, State of the Church Address May 2, 2018).

The Church of Pentecost has been branded as a church that seeks to follow the precepts of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. Their tenets (beliefs) say:

· We believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit for believers with signs following, and also in the operation of the gifts and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

· We believe that the healing of sickness and disease is provided for God's people in the atonement. The church is, however, not opposed to soliciting the help of qualified medical practitioners.

· We believe in the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit and that the Christian life can be led only with his grace. The new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit, and then the baptism of the Holy Spirit for power to serve and the gifts of the Spirit for building the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit helps the individual to develop a Christ-like character, manifest through bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The leading of the Holy Spirit in all spheres of activity in the Church is paramount. Administrative structures and all other church distinctiveness have been by the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Church, through its leadership at all levels, cooperates in obedience (The Church of Pentecost, Tenets and Core Values 2018g).

The above statements have created a clear missional branding for the church and their congregants. Furthermore, the Church of Pentecost also designed a logo that reflects their tenets and core values. According to Walker, the theme song for their radio and television broadcast, 'The fire is burning', has become a brand since the 1970s, attracting many people to listen to their radio and television broadcast dubbed as 'Pentecost Hour' (Walker 2010:1). In their brand identity, they emphasise the power of the Holy Spirit, evangelism, miracles, divine healing, discipleship, church planting and lay leadership.

Developing church administrative and doctrinal structures

Administration presupposes authority, power and prerogatives. These are derived from some form of organised society or association or corporation. Administrative authority - the right or power to govern and direct - is inherent in companies, organisations, corporations, federations or governments. Administration in the Church of Christ is the exercise of those powers or prerogatives with which one has been vested by the church (Robbins & Coulter 2002:176; Rush 2003:17).

As much as planning and management are important aspects of every successful organisation and brand management, in a similar way, as the church participates in the missio Dei, it is essential that we consider planning and management as part of the missional tools for the management of the various resources God has given the church (White & Acheampong 2017:1). It involves working constructively with resources to accomplish organisational goals. According to Means (2008:350), management relates more closely to the stewardship of human and capital resources. Management therefore requires effective and efficient coordination of all resources through the process of planning, organising, directing and controlling in order to attain a stated objective. From a missiological perspective, the Harvestime International Institute defines church management as a process of accomplishing God's purposes and plans through the proper use of human, material and spiritual resources. According to them, management is another word for stewardship (Harvestime International Institute 2001:6).

One of the weaknesses of many of the Pentecostal Churches in West Africa, and for that matter in Ghana, is the lack of properly laid down administrative structures and plans for the management of their churches. However, the same cannot be said of the Church of Pentecost. From its beginning, the church leadership put in place administrative structures that would help the running of the church, leadership succession, financial policy, liturgy and recruitment. The administrative structures of the church became formalised in June 1971 (The Church of Pentecost, Constitution 2018b:1) and was further restructured between 1989 and 1991 through a seven member committee chaired by Apostle Opoku Onyinah, the then International Missions Director (Walker 2010:123). These have helped the church with their missional agenda.

During the past 10 years (2008-2018), under the chairmanship of Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah, the church had massive progress. In analysing his 10 years vision (2008-2018) outlined for his tenure as the chairman of the Church of Pentecost, he reported that:

The Lord added 1,341,656 to the overall worldwide membership of the church. This brought the worldwide membership of The Church of Pentecost to 3,037,068 as against 2,995,463 projected in Vision 2018. This represents a 79% increase to the 2007 membership of 1,695,412. The total number of assemblies at the end of 2017 stood at 20,863, as against the 2007 figure of 13,418. These were distributed across 2,253 administrative districts of the church as against the 2007 figure of 1,284. As of December 2017, The Church of Pentecost operated in 99 countries. (Onyinah, State of the Church Address May 2, 2018)

The above objectives were achieved through prayer and prudent administrative and management structures put in place by the leadership of the church.

Focus on the youth ministry

As the younger generation constitutes a very important part of every organisation, the Church of Pentecost has branded its youth ministry to attract young men and women into the church. According to Larbi, until 1974, there was no Pentecostal fellowship in any of the institutions of higher learning in Ghana. The pioneering work of the Pentecostal Students Association (PENSA) of the Church of Pentecost in 1974 gave rise to the establishment of such fellowships on various campuses (Larbi 2001:198-200). Currently, almost all the Classical Pentecostal Churches, and some Neo-Pentecostal Churches, have their student groups or ministries on various second cycle (Senior High Schools) and tertiary institutions in Ghana.

These groups serve as a means of keeping their youth in the faith, even as they are away from their local churches. It is also a point of contact and networking among the youth of the various churches. The groups are semi-autonomous as they are allowed to have their own leadership structure and run their own programmes - both at the local and national levels. They are, however, required to report to the national leadership of their mother churches about their activities (White 2014:213; White & Niemandt 2015:251).

During the school vacation periods, they go on mission and evangelism outreaches, in conjunction with their mother churches, either to plant a new church or to strengthen a local church that is struggling with growth (The Church of Pentecost, Youth Ministry 2018f.). In terms of ministry and leadership formation, the youth ministry has also served as a way of preparing the next generation of leaders for their local churches. Many times some of the leaders of these groups are later recruited into Pastoral ministry at the end of their studies at university and other tertiary institutions.

For example, the current Youth Director of the Church of Pentecost, Apostle David Nyansah Hayfron, was the president of the Pentecostal Youth Association of the Church of Pentecost at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, from 1998 to 2004 whilst studying for a Bachelor of Pharmacy (and later a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Analysis and Quality Control). He is assisted by elder Amos Kevin Annan (The Church of Pentecost, Youth Ministry 2018f). In addition to the above named national leadership, the church also appointed district youth pastors who are trained and equipped to minister to the needs of the youth (The Church of Pentecost Chairman's Circular 2018a:7).

Although the focus of this study is on the youth ministry, the Church of Pentecost has also done well in strengthening other ministries, such as Women's Ministry, Men's Ministry, Children's Ministry, and Evangelism Ministry. All these ministries are headed by full time directors appointed by the Executive Council to plan and administer activities of the ministries.

Establishment of Pentecost International Worship Centre

The purpose of every brand is to meet the needs of a targeted group or community. Apart from the traditional setting for worship and practices in the Church of Pentecost, the church initiated the concept of Pentecost International Worship Centre (PIWC) in 1993 when it realised that the educated elites and people of the middle- and upper-income classes in their churches were being attracted to the Neo-Pentecostal Churches (Larbi 2001:201-204). Bishop Osei-Bonsu (2005) of the Roman Catholic Church of Ghana also expressed the same sentiment when he said that:

the boring and uninspiring nature of Christian worship in the mainline churches is one of the reasons why some Christians are leaving the mainline churches in Ghana to join Pentecostal churches. (p. 14)

In this regard, Marais (2014) opines that churches have to study their demography and react to it in order to be relevant to the communities they serve. Local congregations are therefore compelled to step out of their comfort zones and cross boundaries for the sake of the mission of God (World Council of Churches 2013:67).

According to the World Council of Churches (2013):

While cherishing the unity of the Spirit in the one Church, it is also important to honour the ways in which each local congregation is led by the Spirit to respond to their contextual realities. Today's changed world calls for local congregations to take new initiatives. For example, in the secularizing global north, new forms of contextual mission, such as new monasticism, emerging church, and fresh expressions, have re-defined and re-vitalized churches. Exploring contextual ways of being church can be particularly relevant to young people. Some churches in the global north now meet in pubs, coffee houses, or converted movie theatres. Engaging with church life online is an attractive option for young people thinking in a non-linear, visual, and experiential way. (p. 66)

In 1993, Apostle Dr Opoku Onyinah, the then International Mission Director of the Church, proposed that the English assemblies of the Church of Pentecost be named International Worship Centre. The name 'International Worship Centre' was later changed to Pentecost International Worship Centre (PIWC) in 1994 by the Executive Council of the Church to make the centre more effective and truly resemble a church that accommodates nationalities from various cultural backgrounds (Asamoah Akowuah 2013:63).

The purpose for the establishment of the PIWCs was, firstly, to provide a well-organised, cross-cultural church, primarily for people of non-Ghanaian cultural background (expatriates), who want a place to worship God. Secondly, it was established for Ghanaian Christians who prefer to worship in English or in a multi-cultural environment (The Church of Pentecost, Vision 2018, 2014:14, 75). The action of the leadership of Church of Pentecost in response to the younger generation and professionals in bringing on board the PIWC is what Aaker (1996:141-142) refers to as 'brand personalities'. According to him, the brand personalities are a set of people associated with a given brand. Thus, it includes such characteristics as gender, age, education and socio-economic class. Missiologically, the PIWC concept has helped the Church of Pentecost to attract and maintain many of their youth as well as professionals. The PIWCs are fast growing and have branches in various parts of Ghana and internationally.

Recruitment of young graduates into full-time ministry

Many young people are eager to make good use of every opportunity that comes their way (Dean 2004:6). They are naturally passionate because they are open and willing to give their all for a cause. Therefore, the church should make room for them to do what they do best (Dean 2001:65, 67).

Youth are an important resource for the development of nations and organisations. They are the future leaders who need grooming and opportunities to develop their potential and capacities to take on future leadership responsibilities.

In the Bible, we read of people like Joshua being groomed by Moses, and Timothy and Titus being mentored by Apostle Paul. In a similar way, the Church of Pentecost has made it a point to groom young people through their youth ministry and at various levels. The purpose of this approach is to develop the next generation of leaders for the church. According to Vision 2018 of the Church of Pentecost (2014:26): 'Apostles/prophets will be strengthened to coach pastors and elders and mentor young prospective upcoming leaders'.

As a matter of policy, the Church of Pentecost has focused on the recruitment of young graduates and professionals into full-time ministry as well as leadership positions in the church. This approach to pastoral recruitment has brought into the church some form of momentum and fervency, particularly among the youth of the church. Many of these young pastors are assigned to serve as pastors at the PIWCs and others are appointed as Youth Pastors for their campus ministry. This approach has helped the church to strengthen and maintain young people and professionals in the church. It has also helped them to manage the generational gap in the church.

Church building and the community-based church building project

Planting of churches in major towns and cities in either a rented apartment or temporary place of worship with the needed basic instruments is part of the missional branding of the Church of Pentecost. For the past 5 years, the church has made it a point to move all their classroom churches to either permanent or temporal places of worship.

Apart from the issues of place of worship, visibility and accessibility to the place of worship are one of the tools that are currently being used by the Church of Pentecost in its church planting. This approach has therefore enhanced soul winning and numerical growth of the church. The church has also embarked on what it calls the 'community-based church building project'. This project aims at building befitting places of worship for communities where the Church of Pentecost has been planted but do not have permanent places of worship. The project is being sponsored by the national headquarters of the church and with support from benevolent individuals from the church (The Church of Pentecost, Vision 2018; 2014:13, 49-50).

With regard to infrastructure development in Ghana, the church currently has 2333 completed auditoriums, 5270 uncompleted church buildings and 593 rented and free premises of worship. It has also constructed more than 1152 ministers' residences, with 185 of them yet to be completed. In addition, 124 of the ministers presently stay in free and rented apartments (The Church of Pentecost, Statistics 2018e).

Corporate social responsibilities

Transformation of people and society is a core component of mission. This was reflected in Jesus' statement:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. (Lk 4:18-19)

In Acts 10:38, we read that Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. Both Luke 4:18-19 and Acts 10:38 are evidence that the Holy Spirit was given to the church for the healing of people and society, and this in turn transforms society (White 2018:133). The mission of the church is not only to preach the gospel but also to be concerned about the welfare of the people within and outside the church.

The church is called to service (diakonia) in every geopolitical and socio-economic context; living out the faith and hope of the community of God's people, and witnessing to what God has done in Jesus Christ. Through service the church participates in God's mission (White 2018:136).

The church's quest to provide education, health facilities, relief services and to address socio-economic needs among its members and the communities in which it operates led to the formation of the Pentecost Welfare Association (PENTWAS) in 1980. The name was later changed to Pentecost Social Services (PENTSOS), and registered with the Department of Social Welfare and the Association of Private Voluntary Organisations (PVOs) in 2000. PENTSOS has a directorate led by an Executive Director who co-ordinates and supervises its five departments. PENTSOS is charged with the following responsibilities: Disaster Prevention and Relief Services, Economic Empowerment, Education Support Schemes and Health Services, among others (The Church of Pentecost, General Administration 2018d).

The church has also established the following: Pentecost University College, Pentecost Convention Centre (the biggest and the finest all-purpose conference destination centre in Ghana), Pentecost Press Limited, Pentecost Hospital in Accra and other clinics across Ghana, about 100 educational facilities, Pentecost Television Station (Pent TV), Pentecost Theological Seminary (PTS), among many others, all in an effort to give back to society and disseminate the gospel of Christ in a holistic manner to the unreached (The Church of Pentecost, Statistics 2018e).

With the above-mentioned social interventions, the Church of Pentecost has branded itself as a church that is not only concerned with the spiritual and social needs of their members and the communities within which they operate. They have also shown that they are concerned with the total well-being of the people they come in contact with.



This article discusses branding from a missional perspective by using the Church of Pentecost as a case study. It was noted that branding is very important for every commodity and organisation. Therefore, the church is not an exception. The article unearthed how the Church of Pentecost missionally branded itself to take advantage of its context of missional activities.

The article started with a definition of branding, missional branding, brief history of the Church of Pentecost and concluded with the missional branding of the Church of Pentecost. The article concludes that the Church of Pentecost since its inception branded itself as a church noted for evangelism followed with miracles, discipleship, well-defined administrative structures and leadership development. As a result, their missional branding has helped them in their church growth and church planting, both in Ghana and internationally.

Among the Pentecostal Churches in Ghana, the Church of Pentecost is a very strong brand as compared to other churches.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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White, P., 2014, 'A missiological study of the role of the baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit in Ghanaian Pentecostal Churches', A PhD thesis submitted to the Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria.         [ Links ]

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Peter White

Received: 01 Oct. 2018
Accepted: 09 Feb. 2019
Published: 09 May 2019

^rND^sMeans^nJ.E.^rND^sWhite^nP.^rND^sWhite^nP.^rND^sAcheampong^nB.O.^rND^sWhite^nP.^rND^sNiemandt^nJ.C.P.^rND^1A01^nPieter M.^sVenter^rND^1A01^nPieter M.^sVenter^rND^1A01^nPieter M^sVenter



A cognitive analysis of Proverbs 1:20-33



Pieter M. Venter

Department Old Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





This article uses cognitive linguistics and an embodied cognitive approach to analyse the passage of Proverbs 1:20-33. The poem, presented as a prophetic threat, uses metaphoric language to depict the dialogue between personified wisdom and metaphorised human beings. The analysis indicates that there is a coherence of metaphors in the target domain shared by both metaphorised source domains of wisdom and the hearers. Using bodily metaphors it stresses the need of wisdom to be internalised by men.

Keywords: Cognitive analysis; Metaphoric language; Lady wisdom; Proverbs 1; Poem.



The intricate composition of Proverbs 1:20-27

The passage consists of an introduction (Pr 1:20-21) and a speech (Pr 1:22-31). The quoted address in Proverbs 1:22-31 consists of three strophes: 1:22-25, 1:26-27 and 1:28-33. There is an inverted symmetry (inclusio) between the first and last strophe, a type of 'inverse return' (Fox 2008:101). Wisdom's appeal to listen is reversed when wisdom rejects the hearers because they do not listen to her. These strophes form a mirror-like frame for the central strophe in Proverbs 1:26-27. Although the correspondence between these two strophes is 'sometimes too vague to form exclusive links' (Fox 2008:104), the inverted structure is reflected in the central strophe of Proverbs 1:26-27. This strophe shows a 'conspicuous structural feature' (Loader 2014:87). It is chiastically arranged in the Masoretic Text. Directly translated verse 26 reads: and I in your calamity (A) will laugh (B); I will mock you (B) when comes your disaster (A). This scheme is inverted in verse 27: when comes like a storm (C) your disaster (A); and your calamity (A) like a whirlwind (C); and when comes over you (A) distress and anguish (C). This arrangement reflects the reversal and chiastic organisation of the first and last strophes.


Cognitive linguistics and metaphorical communication

Language operates in a larger context than mere linguistic constructions. It has a communicative function that has to be studied as well. People communicate with each other in a specific time, within a specific cultural context, under specific circumstances and according to the unspoken rules active among members of society. Proverbs 1:20-27 should, therefore, also be studied within this larger context.

Jindo (2009:222) investigates the connection between language, culture and cognition in antiquity. He uses cognitive linguistics as tool to study this field. The 'cognitive linguistic account of metaphor' (Jindo 2009:225) points out that all communications are metaphorical. There are two domains in communication. Both are conceptual. In the first domain, the source domain, 'metaphorical verbal expressions' (Jindo 2009:226) are used to conceptualise that which is visible in everyday life. The other conceptual domain is called the target domain. When these two conceptual domains are understood in terms of one another, there is a 'conceptually integrated configuration' (Jindo 2009:226) - a metaphoric conceptual coordination. When 'the constituent conceptual elements of the source domain correspond to the constituent elements of the target domain' (Jindo 2009:227), 'mapping' can take place, outlining the juxtaposition of the two conceptual domains.

Lakoff (followed by Mark Johnson, Mark Turner and Rafael E. Núñez) developed his version of cognitive linguistics during the 1970s. According to Lakoff and Johnson (2003:7), 'the human conceptual system is metaphorically structured and defined'. One kind of thing is always understood in terms of another. Our apprehension of well-known physical objects, actions and situations (such as containers, spaces and trajectories) is used to apprehend other 'more complex domains (such as mathematics, relationships or death)' (Embodied cognition). Metaphors are used from the speaker's known world to conceptualise an item. This metaphor then operates as a conduit in communication. The hearer takes the idea or objects out of the word or containers (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2003:10).

Several types of metaphors are used as conduits. Some are structural, others orientational and still some others ontological. According to Lakoff and Johnson (2003:152-153), our experiences (orientational, ontological and structural) may cause conventional metaphors. Orientational and ontological metaphors enable structural variety of conventional metaphors. New metaphors are usually structural. Coming from our constant interaction with our physical and cultural environments (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2003:120), new metaphors trivialise our experiences, hiding some aspects but highlighting others.

Metaphor-forming is neither static nor isolated. Metaphors are open-ended, imaginative and creative. Concepts verbalised in the form of metaphors are interactional. When a second metaphor serves the same purpose of understanding an aspect of the concept, there is an overlap, forming 'cross-metaphorical correspondences' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:98). This coincides with what Jindo (2009:226) calls 'conceptually integrated configuration', a metaphoric conceptual coordination. Lakoff and Johnson (2003:118) call this coherence of metaphors 'experiential gestalt'. These Gestalts represent 'coherent organizations of our experiences in terms of natural dimensions' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:118).

All of these metaphors have the body as the base of all cognition. The 'body is an indispensable epistemic source' (Viviers 2005:889). '[E]mbodied cognitive science' (Tschacher & Scheier 2001:555) indicates that cognition is not restricted to the organism's internal entities, working only with abstract thought (cf. Wilson 2002:625). Mankind's sensorimotor capacities enable him or her to 'extend beyond abstract conceptualizations' (Harquail & King 2010:1620). The body stands central in the cognitive process when the organism is interacting with its environment. Embodied cognition means that a person interacts with his or her environment in terms of his or her sensorimotor capabilities, and continually constructs and construes concepts accordingly. The situations in which the cognitive process is activated can comprise four categories: 'bodily-kinesthetic, visual-spatial, temporal-aural, and emotional' (Harquail & King 2010:1623).

Next to the view of the body as epistemic source, different views on the body as object are also used. The body is then seen as a container. It has its confines but also has the capability of receiving and presenting. This in-out orientation is projected onto other objects that are also bounded by surfaces, and who can also receive and present objects. We, therefore, talk of the body as container with an inside and an outside.

Jindo's (2009:224) aim is to develop a 'methodological model for a systematic and empirical analysis'. According to Jindo, the exegete has to follow three steps to map the correspondence between the source and the target conceptual domain. Firstly, the images and expressions in the source domain are to be investigated on conceptual level. The second step is to relate the two domains organically coordinating them on conceptual level. As metaphor intends 'systematic correspondences between two conceptual domains' (Jindo 2009:228), each domain is to be approached holistically. The third step is to clarify and extend the conceptual information in the source domain linking it to ancient culture. These steps are now followed to analyse the passage in Proverbs 1:20-33.


An embodied cognitive analysis of Proverbs 1:20-33

The 'sapiential discourse' (Loader 2014:89) in Proverbs 1:20-33 lends itself to an embodied cognitive analysis. The speaker in the source domain (wisdom personified as a living prophet) addresses a metaphorical group of people by using several conduit metaphorical phrases. The sensory-motor action of speech is used by wisdom, metaphorising her thoughts. Although the hearers are not quoted, their sensory action is depicted in metaphorical terms as well. They hear what is spoken, experience disaster, start acting at a certain stage and call upon wisdom. They form a second source domain in dialogue with the first source domain of wisdom speaking. These two source domains share the same target domain. The way the speaker is depicted in metaphorical terms stands in correlation with the way the hearers are portrayed. This is indicated by the chiastic structure of the strophes in the passage. What is more, the metaphors used for the speaker (wisdom) are all explicated in terms of the metaphors for the hearers, and vice versa - see the repetition of terms in the first and third strophe. Wisdom is what wisdom is in terms of who or what the addressees are. They are who they are in terms of the metaphors for wisdom. The mutual target domain is the contents of the communication passed on by the metaphorically expressed wisdom and the metaphorically pictured hearers. There is, therefore, a coherence of metaphors, a 'conceptually integrated configuration' (Jindo 2009:226) and an 'experiential gestalt' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:118).

Some features in the text aid in conceptualising the domains. In the Hebrew Bible, people are portrayed by their acts rather than their appearance. People are who they are in terms of the depiction of their deeds. The typical Semitic use of poetic parallelism (parallelismus membrorum) between lines also helps us in identifying the concepts in both source domains. The poetic parallelism used in the passage corresponds with what Lakoff and Johnson (2003:128) call 'metaphorical spatialization of language'. Poetic iteration (repetition) by using parallel phrases stretches (spatialise) the metaphoric intention. The repeated categorisation of the object indicates an extension of the metaphorical interactive purpose of the communication. The chiastic structures found in the passage enhance the inherent systematicness between the poetic lines. What is more, the chiastic structure between the different sections of the passage corroborates the reversal of orientation. Wisdom's willingness to reach out turns about to unwillingness to no longer take any initiative. Wisdom closes its ranks to the plea of the hearers. When disaster strikes, the hearers suddenly change their inward orientation and reach out to wisdom, but with no avail. They are even willing to accept something from outside - eat the fruit of their ways (1:31). But they remain in their catastrophic state.

The metaphorical terms used for both parties are mainly ontological metaphors. Wisdom is depicted as a person, a typical prophet of Israel, someone acting in public. Her performance agrees with that of the prophetic speeches of Jeremiah (cf. Jer 7 and 20) and of Zechariah (Zch 7). There are numerous similarities in diction and phrasing. The parallel is also rather thematic (cf. Fox 2008:105). Wisdom gets hands, feet and a mouth to personally urge the hearers to save themselves. Like a prophet, she condemns the unresponsive audience with the authority of God. Personification is an ontological metaphor par excellence to depict a nonhuman entity (wisdom) in terms of human characteristics (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2013:35). The metaphorical expressions used in wisdom's source domain indicate public action, reaching out to hearers, disappointment with their reaction, wisdom's scorn and threats to be no longer available to them. Wisdom offers what is metaphorically depicted as teachings, rebuke, advice and thoughts. This is, furthermore, a special case of structural metaphor, namely, metonymy (synecdoche) (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2003:37). Each of the entities mentioned focuses upon certain aspects of a larger whole (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2013:38). By using a wide variety of metaphorical human actions, the passage depicts different aspects of the speaker wisdom.

According to Lakoff and Johnson (2003:41), '[c]ultural and religious symbolism are special cases of metonymy'. What wisdom offers is much more than just teachings and advice. It is a way of life. When wisdom stretches out its metaphorical hand1 and gives something the addressees can accept, absorb and internalise, a comprehensive system is meant. It is an invitation to a systematic correlation with wisdom's essence. The 'repent' of 1:23 is an orientational metaphor that gives the order of opening up to wisdom.2 Wisdom invites the addressees to break out of their inner circular movement and open up to wisdom, to move outside of themselves. They are to break away from their complacency, their self-satisfaction and create some spatialisation outside of themselves. However, wisdom does exactly what they do: she speaks her own words (1:21 אֲמָרֶ֥יהָ תאֹמֵֽר) like they, as simpletons, love their own simple ways, are mockers who delight in their own mockery (1:22 פְּתָיִם֘ תְּֽאֵהֲב֫וּ פֶ֥תִי וְלֵצִ֗ים לָ֖צוֹן חָמְד֣וּ).3

The use of chiasmus indicates a simultaneous change of itinerary by both parties. Both wisdom and the hearers change direction. However, there is a difference in the results of their turnaround. As result of the hearer's negative reaction, wisdom changes its orientation.4 Wisdom's reaction to their wayward behaviour is spatial - metaphorically depicted as withdrawal. She no longer reaches out, but retracts into herself, observing from a distance what takes place with the addressees. The fools showed contempt for wisdom by rejecting her advice; now she will likewise show them contempt by rejecting them. Retribution takes place and the hearers reap what they sowed. In terms of retributive justice's eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, they ignored wisdom's call and now wisdom pays them back by also ignoring them. They are the ones who now reach out like wisdom did, but their extending of hands to wisdom is as futile as her reaching out to them was.

There are also some obvious differences. There is a fine line between the movements of wisdom and addressees. When changing direction, wisdom keeps to be in a superior position. The motor movement of wisdom laughing and mocking, looking down upon the addressees' calamity, does not drive her into the same type of passivity. Wisdom's withdrawal rather confirms her sovereignty in opposition to the hearer's futile efforts. The emotions of personalised wisdom are related to other concepts that have to do with well-being in opposition to the addressees' calamity. Lakoff and Johnson (2003:19) make the general remark regarding this type of metaphors: 'There is an overall external systematicity among the various spatialization metaphors, which defines coherence among them'.

In terms of Lakoff and Johnson's thinking, the speaker wisdom is a container with an in-out orientation. In the passage, wisdom moves out of its container and reaches out towards the addressees. What is experienced in the visual field of wisdom is other containers that also have an in-out orientation. These containers can also move in and out. The collective body of the hearers can also take in something. A 'corporeal exchange' or 'mutual incorporation' (Viviers 2005:880) can take place when wisdom's regulatory body is internalised in the bodies of the hearers. What wisdom presents moving out of its container is something the addressees can receive and take into themselves. Initially, wisdom's in-out orientation is projected upon the addressees wanting them to receive what it presents. Wisdom wants them to turn to wisdom and open up to it. Wisdom uses its mental capacities and emotional makeup to interact with the addressees, evaluating them in terms of wisdom's conceptual system and expectation. However, they are depicted as doing right the opposite.

Not only wisdom is depicted in personified terms, but also the addressees are conceptualised in terms of persons who represent a specific tendency. Although the hearers are human beings and their depiction is not personification per se, they are also pictured in metaphorical terms. They are a metaphoric characterisation of a specific cognitive condition. The hearers represent a social group and are also containers (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2003:60, 61, 118). They are 'entities bounded by a surface' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:26). They also have an in-out orientation. Wisdom incites them to move out of themselves and opens up to wisdom and takes in what she offers them. Wisdom insists on an 'openness to wisdom's message' (Fox 2008:105). Its words are to be absorbed. However, at this stage they retreat into passiveness. They draw back into their own containers - the direct opposite of what wisdom does when she reaches out. They keep to what they deem as their comfort zone. They are, therefore, reprimanded for staying within themselves, not being willing to open up to wisdom's call. Disastrous circumstances force them to change and to open up to wisdom. However, when they do turn to wisdom, wisdom is not willing to reach out to them any longer. Where wisdom's calling was aimed at benefiting the addressees, their calling is now purely for their own advantage.5 They are now stuck in the calamity that comes over them. Structural metaphors are used to describe what happens to them. There is an 'internal systematicity' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:18) in these events, creating a coherence between them. Only certain aspects of disaster and calamity are stressed, and metaphorical adversity in general rather than specific forms of disaster is intended.

The type of metaphors used for the addressees are ontological: they are depicted in terms of their aversion to wisdom's outreaching orientation. They are 'entities or substances of a uniform kind' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:26). They rather represent a type of reaction than persons with specific names. Based on the 'basic domain of experience' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:118), the metaphors used form structured wholes within recurrent human experiences. With their perceptual, motor activity, and purposive properties, they are multidimensional Gestalts of what the speaker experiences when meeting people like these. Their conduct is metaphorically seen as self-obsessed. It is conceptualised as self-destructive foolishness. Their attitude is one of being obstinate, of having excessive complacency. They are not seen in terms of prototypical fools, but rather in terms of their interaction with wisdom. The people addressed are not inherently simple ones, mockers and fools, but rather what they are in terms of their questionable interaction with wisdom. At first this personified attitude is marked by passiveness. Narcissism discourages any responsive action. The nexus between deed and consequence is, however, arranged chronologically. The deedlessness is linked to catastrophe as result. Forced by calamity this attitude turns into willingness to attend to wisdom, but this is misjudged compliance based on miscalculation and egocentricity. What exactly will happen to them is not described in detail, but rather metaphorically depicted in terms of misfortune that hits them (storm and whirlwind). The forces that will hit the object containers will come from outside and move upon their bodies bringing shame to them. Their reaction to the call of wisdom caused these disasters to come upon them. This intrusion forces them to move out of the body. The conduit of their actions are metaphorical words for searching-not finding, rejecting, not-accepting and eating. The sensory actions here are linked to the mouth (speech), eyes (look for) and brain (mind activity of hating, choosing, not accepting, spurning).

Seeing the body as object, another line of analysis can be followed. The types of bodies depicted in this poem differ from the usual. What is strange is that wisdom's acts are depicted with third-person feminine verbs, but she acts in masculine terms. The name used for wisdom is the plural חָכְמוֹת,6 rather than the usual feminine7 of חָכְמָ֣ה. In 1:20-21, the feminine forms of the verbs are used. The first-person singular form used in the rest in 1:22-30 can indicate both femininity and masculinity.8 Generally, the prophet is a man and the third-person masculine form of the verb is used to describe his actions. Wisdom acts at those places where prostitutes (Gen 38:14, Ezk 16:25) and lady folly (Pr 9:13-18) operate. Fox (2008:97-98) remarks that it is 'incongruous and daring for the dignified Lady Wisdom to be frequenting such places and calling to men'. However, wisdom plays a masculine role in this passage. It acts exactly like a prophet does with the same authority. Wisdom's 'authority is manifested in her conduct and words' (Loader 2014:89). Authority is rather attributed to men than women. Wisdom acts as orator, talking like a prophet. The use of emphatic words like 'calls aloud', 'raises her voice' and 'cries' categorises her as someone of stature. The virtues wisdom offers are associated with the 'upper body with which males are predominantly identified' (Viviers 2005:883). Here we have 'inscribing of the male regulatory body' (Viviers 2005:883). According to Viviers (2005:884), wisdom here 'promotes male hegemony'. Wisdom takes initiative.

An interesting aspect of wisdom's 'maleness' is how her actions remarkably coincide with that of God. Wisdom's vocal abuse of those who disregarded wisdom 'is sometimes considered to imitate God's, for he too mocks his enemies (e.g. Ps 2:4, 37:13, 59:9) and shows contempt for all their powers and plans' (Fox 2008:101)9. Although wisdom is not any God-like entity, it is remarkable how wisdom's scolding of fools draws on the images of the prophet and the male-depicted God. The difference is that God is the One who brings calamity, but wisdom only observes what happens to them. She is not the one who brings disaster. It comes by itself. Their disaster is the result of a created order of retribution.

One further remark is in order. The pouring out of thoughts in 1:23 (אַבִּיעָה לָכֶם רוּחִי) uses the metaphor for liquid flowing (Hifil nq'). This can probably point in the direction of sexual intercourse. The masculine body of wisdom ejaculates what it offers into the container body of the hearers to be conceived by them. What wisdom pours out like water is to be absorbed by the hearers, grown inside their bodies and made part of their being.

The body (-ies) of the hearers plays a feminine role. In Proverbs 9:13-18, folly is personified as a woman sitting at her door inviting passers-by to come into her house. The hearers' bounded surface restricts them from moving outwards. The woman's body is more porous than that of the man. What wisdom pours out can be absorbed by the (womanly) hearers. Being aware of their (womanly) position, the hearers are inclined to close ranks and keep to themselves (cf. Viviers 2005:881; Berquist 2002:67, 80). Turned inwards to themselves, the simple ones love their own simple ways, the mockers delight in their own mockery, and the fools hate what can be known. The addressees are metaphorically indicated as self-lovers and self-destructors. They are marked by ignorance, arrogance and overconfidence (cf. Fox 2008:41). Like woman folly in Proverbs 9:13, who is undisciplined and without knowledge, they also act foolishly. They are like a self-contained woman having only eyes for herself looking into the mirror. She is unwilling to open up to wisdom's advances. The use of פְּרִי in 1:31 reminds of פְּרִי in Genesis 3:2-6. Eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden initiated by the feminine Eve led to the catastrophe of being banned for life from the garden. Their own fruit is a negative metaphor for their own foolish ways. The result of their actions shows an 'intrinsic retribution' (Fox 2008:102). There is a 'behavior-consequence nexus' (Fox 2008:102). They will suffer 'the effects of their own schemes and deed' (Fox 2008:102). They closed themselves for wisdom. Like the Lord had closed the womb of Hannah (1 Sm 1:5), the striking disaster, whatever form it took, forces the hearers into a disgraceful position similar to that of a women who is scorned because she has no children (cf. the issue of honour and shame). Their womb cannot conceive any longer. Wisdom ceased to pour out to them what was initially offered to them. This causes them to change their strategy. Like the adulteress in Proverbs 7:8-15, the addressees now move out into the street. They become restless, no longer willing to stay at home, 'now in the street, now in the squares' (Pr 7:12). Like woman folly (Pr 9:13-18) who sits outside her house on a seat at the highest point of the city, they go out to call upon wisdom like wisdom initially תָּרֹנָּה upon them. They present themselves like a harlot to wisdom to receive the poured out semen that can bring life to them. However, wisdom is unwilling, like Onan was with Tamar to procreate new life (Gn 38:8-10).



This brings me to Jindo's third step to clarify and extend the conceptual information to ancient culture, in this case wisdom theology. The Gestalt of these clustered metaphors are cultural metaphors for the internalisation of wisdom. The 'cross-metaphorical correspondences' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:98) or 'conceptually integrated configuration' (Jindo 2009:226) points to internalised wisdom. The events from the everyday domains of speech and human hearing are used to talk metaphorically about the corresponding cluster of concepts in the metaphorically defined domain of the theology of wisdom (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2003:53). The configuration established by the metaphors for speaker and addressees is part of a larger metaphorical system that serves the 'complex purpose of characterising the concept of an argument in all of its aspects' (Lakoff & Johnson 2003:106). The non-physical (wisdom as abstract) is conceptualised in terms of the physical (people talking, listening and reacting). But wisdom is no mere abstract or idea. It is something that is to be internalised in the life of people. It is something that must enter one's heart (Pr 2:10), become part and parcel of one's being. In terms of Proverbs 1-9, it is the same as the fear of the Lord: a living all-encompassing relationship with God day by day. Without wisdom life becomes unbearable, barren. Wisdom conceived becomes a living entity alive in men.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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Pieter Venter

Received: 05 Sept. 2018
Accepted: 09 Feb. 2019
Published: 15 May 2019



1. Loader (2014:96) discusses the meaning of reaching out the hand. Outstretched hand is parallel to give instruction, advice and invite. It is a positive gesture.
2. Fox does not understand the verb
šub to mean 'return' or 'move back', whether physically or metaphorically. The preposition l- ('to') indicates the place or a person towards which one turns. 'In other words, in this verse, tašubu is not a call to repentance, but rather a call to attention' (Fox 2008:98-99).
3. Wisdom 'speaks her speak' (1:21) (
אֲמָרֶיהָ תֹאמֵר). Loader (2014:91) calls it a figura etymologica.
4. Loader (2014:97) calls it 'a poetic turning of the tables', 'Schadenfreude' (cf. also Fox 2008:101).
5. Time is also important. Wisdom was calling and calling again. They suddenly change their movement from inside to outside. The issue of having a choice is also important. The 'deed-consequence nexus' (Loader 2014:99) means that your choice automatically intends a specific result. You are to blame only yourself. The choice in the Garden of Eden was detrimental to the humans who chose to be disobedient.
6. Loader (2014:92) discusses this morphological problem of wisdom's name in the plural, and concludes that 'the word clearly functions as a singular'.
7. Fox remarks that the plural form is also used in Proverbs 9:1, Psalms 49:4 and Sirach 4:11. It is not a 'plural of extension and intensity' (Fox 2008:96) as Toy thought, but 'a pl. form treated as a sg. because it refers to a single figure' (Fox 2008:96). 'The pl. forms of bîn
āh and tebûnāh function almost exactly' the same 'designating both a plurality of sayings and an abstract singular' (Fox 2008:96).
8. Fox (2008:97) reads T
āronnāh 'shout' not as a feminine plural, but rather as third-person feminine singular.
9. Fox (2008:102) points out the similarity with how God acts: In Hosea 5:15, for example, God says that Israel will one day feel shame and seek him (
šier as in Pr 1:28b) when they are in trouble (ar = arah, as in Pr 1:27b). God will accept this approach, whereas (according to Hs 5:6) if they seek God merely 'with their flocks and cattle' they will not 'find' him (maa as in Pr 1:28b). God's refusal to respond when sought is also mentioned in, for example, Micah 3:4; Isaiah 1:15; and Jeremiah 11:11. In a similar formula of reciprocity, God says, 'I spoke to you constantly, but you did not listen; and I called to you, but you did not answer' (Jr 7:13; cf. Jr 35:17; Zch 7:12). Eliphaz upbraids Job with a similar taunt: 'Call now. Will anyone answer you? And to whom among the holy beings will you turn?' (Job 5:1).

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A critical analysis of social innovation: A qualitative exploration of a religious organisation



Alex Antonites; Wentzel J. Schoeman; Willem F.J. van Deventer

Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





New challenges are constantly emerging in the social sector in South Africa. Various social (non-profit) organisations are developing new and innovative ways to accommodate these challenges and to meet social needs. The aim of this research article is to measure the current social innovation capacity of the Dutch Reformed Church (DR Church), with reference to innovation capabilities, to determine at what level the church is meeting new social needs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data from six different congregations and a governing body in the Pretoria area, South Africa, was included. Twelve participants were interviewed between August and October 2017. The participants, consisting of ministers and board members, each held a management position. The social innovation capacity measurement of the DR Church showed that the organisation was successfully developing new ways to serve as a social agent in society. There are obstacles that prohibit the DR Church from developing new innovative ways to meet the social needs of its society, for example, entrepreneurial, developmental and leadership change capacities. Recommendations are made to maximise social innovation capacity of the managers (ministers and board members).

Keywords: Innovation capacity; Innovation capabilities; Social entrepreneurship; Social innovation; Social impact.




In recent times, governments and non-profit organisations have recognised the social innovative value that social enterprises contribute to society (Biggeri, Testi & Bellucci 2017:1). Between 2000 and 2010, the membership of the Dutch Reformed Church (DR Church) diminished by more than 14% (Schoeman 2014:3). The Biblical principle of an organisational church focusses on proclamation, transformation and service to the community (Daman 2006:19).

The DR Church plays an important role in the social environment of South Africa. Without adequate membership, this specific organisation will not be able to continue the social work that it is currently conducting. The DR Church will need to shift its focus from established patterns to new patterns (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerke 2015:5; Niemandt 2007:12). Dees (1998:1) defines social entrepreneurship as the passion of a social mission with a business-like mindset. According to Peredo and McLean (2006:1), social entrepreneurship is emerging as a way of dealing with complex social needs in an innovative manner. Social entrepreneurship aims to create shared value using innovative methods (Shaw & De Bruin 2013:744). Mulgan (2006:146), Dees (1998:2, 5) and Peredo and McLean (2006:60, 62) define social innovation as innovative services and activities where the goal of meeting a social need is the motivation.

It is a possibility that mainstream churches are losing their effectiveness as social agents. The total number of members has been steadily diminishing over the past decade, resulting in fewer resources being available to improve the social circumstances. The DR Church has not escaped this trend and is experiencing a similar problem (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerke 2015:5).

The aim of this research paper was to measure the current social innovation capacity of the DR Church to determine the level at which the church is meeting the demand for new social needs. Capacity in the context of this study encapsulates both human resources (e.g. knowledge or networking) and capital (e.g. financial or other tangible/infrastructural resources).

The following research questions served as a guide for the research project:

· What is the current social innovation capacity of the DR Church with reference to its innovation capabilities?

· What internal and external factors influence the social innovation capacity of the DR Church?

· What prevalent issues exist that prohibit social innovation in the DR Church?

According to Van Wyk (2015a:3), the DR Church conducts a survey every 5 years, called The Church Mirror, to identify certain trends in the organisation. Mouton (2015:7) specifies that The Church Mirror includes a section on innovation. It also interprets various statistics. The number of members of the DR Church who believe that the denomination is innovative has risen from 25% in 2010 to 31.3% in 2014. The Church Mirror is a quantitative survey of those who attend church on a regular basis. The findings are based on a standard questionnaire and random sampling (Schoeman 2011:474). The above-mentioned statistics indicate that the members of the DR Church are under the impression that innovation is increasing within the DR Church.

Membership of the DR Church is in gradual decline (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerke 2015:5), which concurrently exerts a negative effect on outreach to the communities (Van Wyk 2015b:11). Between 1972 and 2010, the membership of the DR Church decreased by more than 500 000 members (Schoeman 2014:5).

The purpose of this study was to investigate and analyse the social innovation capacity of the DR Church as a social entrepreneurial agent in its environment. Dees (1998:1) defines social entrepreneurship as the passion of a social mission with a business-like mindset. According to Peredo and McLean (2006:1), social entrepreneurship is emerging as a way of dealing with complex social needs in an innovative manner. Social entrepreneurship aims to create shared value using innovative methods (Shaw & De Bruin 2013:744).

Mulgan (2006:146), Dees (1998:2, 5) and Peredo and McLean (2006:60, 62) define social innovation as innovative services and activities where the goal of meeting a social need is the motivation. Dees (1998:2) states that a social entrepreneur always searches for new ways to take hold of an opportunity to serve as change agents in society and the economy. However, social change is often confronted with resistance (Newth & Woods 2014:5). Drucker (2014:168) mentioned the importance of the public service sector and noted the fast growth in the not-for-profit sector. This sector consists of social innovators who exploit opportunities by finding new ways to meet the social needs in society.

Bielefeld and Cleveland (2013:446) define a faith-based organisation (FBO) as an organisation that provides social services together with an expression of religion in some form. Baumann (2014:113) states that the study of FBOs is dynamically related to religion, the civil society and the state. It is thus appropriate to view FBOs as social organisations.

Semi-structured interviews with 12 clergy and board members were conducted from various congregations of the DR Church of Pretoria, South Africa. The aim was to measure the state of the social innovation capacity according to the three-point measurement method created and tested by Forsman (2011). For this study, the social impact of the DR Church was explored according to social innovation measures within the context of social entrepreneurship. A desktop review was conducted on social innovation and social entrepreneurship based on the systematic review advanced by Phillips et al. (2015:1).

In the current chaotic and complex world, not-for-profit organisations have to look at innovative ways to sustain a strong social impact. This includes social organisations that rely on their members to engage in or contribute to various community projects. This study contributes to both the academic and applied (organisational) spheres regarding social innovation in the DR Church as well as the social impact that not-for-profit organisations have in South Africa.

This research study measured the social innovative capacity within the DR Church (as briefly defined) using a qualitative research design. Recommendations have been made regarding how the DR Church could improve or accelerate the social innovation process to meet the needs of the existing members and the community it reaches out to. The literature explores the various definitions of social entrepreneurship and social innovation.


Literature review

The social entrepreneur


Pirson (2015:2) states that social entrepreneurship attempts to make a positive difference in the world and use intellect to drive meaningful action. Choi and Majumdar (2014:372) regard social entrepreneurship as a cluster concept. This concept is illustrated in Figure 1 where the four smaller circles representing the social entrepreneur, the social entrepreneurial organisation, market orientation and social innovation are surrounded by the larger concept of social value. Choi and Majumdar (2014:372) regard these five fields as the cluster concept of social entrepreneurship. This concept forms the base of the literature review.



Social entrepreneurship

Kickul and Lyons (2012:19) refer to various definitions of social entrepreneurship. It is, however, important to recognise that social entrepreneurship is a continuous process. Any type of organisation should identify an innovation deficit (an area that requires new solutions to new or existing problems) to create social value by implementing the social process.

According to Newth and Woods (2014:1), Joseph A. Schumpeter identified the entrepreneur as an economic agent who applies change through innovation. Change is initiated by combining different disciplines and fields of study in order to create social value. Schumpeter (1934:3) identified social entrepreneurship as an academic field in the early 19th century.

According to Choi and Majumdar (2014:372), the academic field of social entrepreneurship is complex in nature as it comprises various sub-fields. As mentioned earlier, Choi and Majumdar (2014:372) identified the following five different sub-fields of social entrepreneurship:

1. social value creation

2. the social entrepreneur

3. the social enterprise

4. market orientation

5. social innovation.

The goal of these different sub-fields is set for academic purposes. This allows the researcher to state which sub-field(s) of social entrepreneurship are being researched.

As stated, this study focusses on the social enterprise as a contributor of social value and social innovation as a means to find new ways to existing challenges in the specific organisation, the DR Church.

Newth and Woods (2014:3) state that the academic community does not have consensus concerning the definition of social entrepreneurship. Thus, social entrepreneurship must rather be studied as a process in a specific sub-field. The various sub-fields of social entrepreneurship make it difficult to reach a unified definition of social entrepreneurship. Newth and Woods (2014:4) state that the contribution of Schumpeter (1934:3) to the academic field of social entrepreneurship as a process of combining different fields of study to create social value still forms the basis of social entrepreneurship today.

Zahra et al. (2009:519) attempted to define social entrepreneurship using Schumpeter's explanation of 1934 as a basis: 'The activities and processes undertaken to discover, define, and exploit opportunities in order to enhance social wealth by creating new ventures or managing existing organisations in an innovative manner'.

Phillips et al. (2015:442) state that social entrepreneurship identifies and attempts to resolve a social problem. Phillips et al. (2015:442) add that the social enterprise identifies its own social requirements that need to be met. These social requirements are usually communicated in the form of a social mission statement or an opportunity recognised in society.

The social enterprise

Shaw and De Bruin (2013:741) argue that the debate regarding a definition of a social enterprise is now saturated. Thus, a social enterprise can be defined as an enterprise that engages in mainstream activities, processes and behaviour. This could include for-profit activities like trading and manufacturing. A social enterprise can be identified by recognising how surpluses are used.

Choi and Majumdar (2014:374) state that the social enterprise has many facets, including special funding, collaboration with various social role players, various laws regulating them, various organisational structures and various countries. The social enterprise is an integral part and a sub-field of study in social entrepreneurship. The social value creation process renders the social enterprise part of the cluster concept of social entrepreneurship. Thus, it would be impossible to research social entrepreneurship without analysing the social enterprise in the process.

Social entrepreneurial role players

Phillips et al. (2015:442) state that the traditional view of a social entrepreneur is a single person who wants to bring change to the world. This, however, is not the case. According to Kickul and Bacq (2012:58), social business planning has a multi-stakeholder approach. If a social entrepreneur wants to be effective, he or she must innovate. An integral part of innovation is to form partnerships or hire employees. Phillips et al. (2015:442) note that networking is important for the social innovative process.

The social entrepreneur and team must manage relationships with various stakeholders. Kickul and Bacq (2012:60) identified five stakeholder groups that the social entrepreneurial business must consider:

1. Funders and management teams: Mapping abilities of the leading managers in the planning process is important for the execution phase.

2. End markets and other beneficiaries: The identified markets (to which the business will add social value) are often unable or unwilling to pay for the specific goods or services provided by the social business. Resource strategies should therefore be considered in the planning process.

3. Employees: In a traditional, for-profit business, employees are viewed as a cost connected to a specific resource provided. The employees of a social business are not only viewed as a fixed component of the cost structure but also as a core contributor to creative and innovative thinking.

4. Context, competitors and other partners: The new social business must often plan and form partnerships with its competitors and partners to create social value more effectively.

5. Resource providers: The social business must plan and identify their resource providers.

Social innovation

Mulgan (2006:146) defines social innovation as 'innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need'. Phillips et al. (2015:430) note that for-profit organisations aim to create social value through their corporate social responsibility programme. For-profit organisations could also have a goal to create social value through activities, services and products.

De Bassi Padilha, Cziulik and de Camargo Beltrão (2017:2) stated that innovation as a capability in an organisation is a critical success factor in organisational growth. They define innovation as the implementation of an output (product or service, new and improved service) as a process. Innovation includes the application of knowledge that is new to the organisation but not necessarily new to the world.

Schumpeter (1934:4) described social innovation as an economic development process in a 'non-priced' or not-for-profit environment. Newth and Woods (2014:3) state that the academic field of social entrepreneurship and social innovation has developed considerably since the time of Schumpeter's work in the early 20th century.

The term social innovation refers to private corporations operating in the social sector. They explore not only new markets but also increased ways in which the community can benefit. According to Phillips et al. (2015), social innovation can be described as:

An intervention initiated by social actors to respond to an aspiration, to meet specific needs, to offer a solution, or to take advantage of an opportunity for action in order to modify social relations, transform a framework for action, or propose new cultural orientations. (p. 447)

Niemandt (2007:52) describes social innovators as persons who are prepared to do what is necessary to adapt to new conditions and likewise perpetuated by a systems approach.

Choi and Majumdar (2014:368) state that social innovation is a sub-field and an integral part of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs employ social innovation to continuously innovate to solve problems in society. Social entrepreneurs are expected to bring sustainable social change in society and are therefore referred to as social innovators. Choi and Majumdar (2014:368) clearly show that social innovation is a sub-field of social entrepreneurship.

Martinez et al. (2017:1) stated that social innovation is best understood as a process that relies on the social dynamics between businesses and individuals. Economic activity traditionally views human resources as a category wherein individuals are used to create economic value (particularly capitalistic). The concept of social innovation aims to create value in its fullest sense (social value). According to Phillips et al. (2015:430), social value aims to fulfil a social need or resolve a social problem as opposed to shareholder wealth in a for-profit organisation. Tracey and Scott (2017:55) reason that social innovation is an umbrella concept that combines organisational activities that are implemented with the purpose to aid the resolution of problems in societies.

Schultz (2013:12) describes deliberate disruptive design as social innovation that gives the simplest explanation for social entrepreneurship. This corresponds with Choi and Majumdar (2014:372) describing social innovation as a sub-field of social entrepreneurship. The deliberate disruptive design process can be understood as follows:

· Deliberate: The social entrepreneur is on a deliberate mission (as opposed to a random mission) to facilitate change in the social environment.

· Disruptive: Disruptive innovation brings a competitive advantage to the social environment.

· Design: Social innovation aims to cross the traditional boundaries between not-for-profit, for-profit and public organisations to create social value.

Scofield (2011:208) proposes innovation standardisation as a concept to identify when to reinvent a system, as opposed to adapting the same system to solve problems in a changing environment. Newth and Woods (2014:4) describe social innovation as a process that combines various resources to create new combinations to address social problems. Social entrepreneurship brings new combinations to the market. Social innovation must be coupled with the social enterprise, with the social entrepreneur taking the new product or service to the market. New product or service offerings in the context of innovation could contribute to higher operational efficiencies, speed and reduced cost. In addition to the material advantages, a key advantage resonates with enhanced social impact.

Innovation capacity

The continuous development of capabilities and resources within an organisation with the aim of exploring and exploiting new opportunities to meet social needs is defined as the innovation capacity of an organisation (Szeto 2000; Tsai & Liao 2017:3). Kirner, Kinkel and Jaeger (2009) regard innovation capacity as the same as formal research and development (R&D) activities of organisations. However, within small organisations, innovations are the result of daily activities such as member collaboration regarding the optimisation of processes rather than formal R&D (Hirsch-Kreinsen 2008). Innovation development is not the main objective of those involved in innovation capacity development, but rather the individuals who collaborate with members (Forsman 2011:740).

Forsman (2011) studied the degree of innovation capacity of small organisations by examining their R&D investments, the degree of innovation capabilities and the external innovation input received through networking. Innovation capabilities were assessed by grading seven defined dimensions on a three-point scale. Lastly, external input was assessed based on whether the impact of networking was viewed as positive, negative or had no impact.

Key role of transformational leadership in social entrepreneurship

As mentioned, according to Forsman (2011:749), the capability to implement change is a key factor in measuring innovation capacity. This includes the capability to quickly implement change. Therefore, change management and transformational leadership constitute an integral part of social entrepreneurship.

According to Phillips et al. (2015:447), transformation of an existing framework is always part of the social innovative process. Kickul and Bacq (2012:114) explain that the fields of transformational leadership and social innovation overlap in many areas. Khalili (2016) reflects on empirical evidence that transformational leadership enhances creative thinking, innovation given a perceptual experience of a supportive climate for innovation. The findings of Jaiswal and Dhar (2015) confirm the latter by displaying a direct link between this leadership style and the existence of a climate for innovative behaviour. An even deeper investigation results in evidence that transformation leadership contributes more to team innovation than individual innovation (Li, Mitchell & Boyle 2016). The lens of this study relates to the social entrepreneurial organisation with much to learn from the latter findings in terms of specifically innovation and innovation management.

As stated, Schultz (2013:14) explains the social entrepreneurial process as a deliberate disruptive design process. This relates to the four elements of transformational leadership as stated by Kickul and Bacq (2012:114). Incremental innovation exists as opposed to deliberate disruptive design. According to Norman and Verganti (2014:4), incremental product innovation occurs when small changes in a product are made to meet new standards. This could include new technological advances to meet current needs. In social innovation, small changes in a current social offering can be incrementally made to meet new needs. The contextual nature of the unit of analysis, the DR Church, asks for innovative approaches to either survive or grow in line with the needs of their key stakeholders' needs coupled with higher social impact. Innovation per se is a process that directly aligns value-to-member (user) requirements, new areas of development and also creates incremental or leapfrog offerings to enhance social change (e.g. new technological platforms to distribute the core offering of a church, with reference to new generations).

Innovation deficits

Mulgan (2006:147) identifies an innovation deficit as the gap between current provision and existing needs. The innovation deficits illustrate topics or areas where new ways must be found and implemented (innovation) to address global common needs (social needs).

Measuring social impact

According to Trelstad (2008:107), the social entrepreneur may have some difficult challenges to measure social impact. Measuring social impact is made difficult by two factors (Kickul & Lyons 2012:177; Trelstad 2008:107; Tuan 2008:6-7):

· A general lack of maturity in measuring social impact, as measurement methods are not well developed.

· Social organisations differ greatly in size and purpose.

Determining degree of innovation capacity

According to Forsman (2011:749), innovation capacity can be measured using seven elements.

The following seven elements closely relate to the research questions used in this study to determine the degree of social innovation capacity in the DR Church:

· capabilities for knowledge exploitation

· entrepreneurial capabilities (opportunity recognition)

· risk management capabilities

· networking capabilities

· development capabilities (use internally generated ideas)

· change management capabilities

· market and customer knowledge (non-profit industry knowledge and R&D).

Evaluating change (social innovation)

Tracey and Stott (2017:51) suggest that social innovation is as old as time itself, although when reading the literature one may believe it is a new concept. Social innovation in general is defined as the implementation of new concepts to solve social problems, where the innovator is not the sole beneficiary of the result.

Schultz (2013:67) states that a social entrepreneur is constantly being evaluated in an everchanging complex environment. A social entrepreneur must adapt to the changing complex environment. Therefore, the measurement of a project should not be seen as static, as new and better ways may improve the desired outcomes (social innovation).

Social entrepreneurship and social innovation in the Dutch Reformed Church


Du Toit et al. (2002:3) state that the DR Church, as an institution, has changed considerably during the last quarter of the previous century. Du Toit et al. (2002:4) refer to the negative association of the DR Church with 'separate development' or 'apartheid' as a reason for less sympathy amongst the democratically elected politicians. With the 'New South Africa' being more open to freedom of religion, the government cannot have more sympathy for a specific group, church or religion.

The influence that this religious institution has in South African politics has thus been minimised since 1994. As a result, this has reduced the resources available for the DR Church to use for social impact.

The DR Church has a dynamic history of change. Du Toit et al. (2002:xvi) constructed a timeline and identified a few important events that have impacted the DR Church and how it responded to these events.

Examples of such events are the Cottesloe meeting in 1960 (held in Cottesloe in Johannesburg), which stated that the wealth of a country should be shared by all of its residents (Du Toit et al. 2002:56). In 1982, a document entitled 'Kerk en Samelewing' [Church and Society] stated that members of the DR Church could be of any race (Du Toit et al. 2002:83). In 1990, at a meeting in Rustenburg without any political influence, entitled 'Die Rustenburgberaad', labelled 'separate development' or 'apartheid' as a sin (Du Toit et al. 2002:105). Niemandt (2007:84) states that congregations should determine what their specific calling is in their society. The congregation should then plan and execute the identified community work.

Transformational leadership in the Dutch Reformed Church

Niemandt (2007:52) states that change starts with innovation. It is the innovator that innovates when he/she adapts to the everchanging environment. Innovation is a process that can occur in a complex environment (Schultz 2013:69). Mouton (2015:7) lists three different types of transformational leadership that are applicable in the DR Church, namely:

· Technical leadership: The ability to perform everyday tasks.

· Transactional leadership: Leadership where others are influenced.

· Transformational leadership: Leading a process of identity, cultural, missional and operating change.

Measuring social innovation or transformation in a church

According to Daman (2006:137), transformational leadership is a Biblical imperative of any church. The church must engage the community at every level in order to bring change to that community. The purpose of any church is to transform its community within moral, social and spiritual frameworks. While the social benefits to the community can be monetised (Kickul & Lyons 2012:182), the moral and spiritual changes in a society can be assessed using only non-monetary methods (Schultz 2013:69). In this study, the three items mentioned by Forsman (2011:749) were used to measure the degree of innovation capacity.

Importance of the study

As stated, the DR Church has changed considerably during the last quarter of the previous century. This indicates that the leadership within the DR Church is transformational in nature. As stated by Niemandt (2007:52), change begins with innovation.

In this study, the innovation capacity of the DR Church was measured to determine its current degree of innovation capacity. As evident in history, social innovation in the DR Church has played a critical role in the history of South Africa on various levels.

In South Africa, 62.3% of the population falls within the lower income bracket of earning less than R86 000 per annum. In the lower class, spending on food constitutes between 29% and 34% of the total expenditure, which will increase with the high inflation levels. Transport consumes between 11% and 12% of the lower-class income, with less than 2.5% being spent on education and other components, including medical aid, insurance and pension (Writer 2016). Not-for-profit organisations, such as the DR Church, could play a significant role in addressing the above-mentioned issues.


The DR Church was discussed as a social organisation that has changed (positively and negatively) over the past five decades. Diminishing membership (and resources) was discussed as a possible cause of a probable loss of social effectiveness of the organisation. The objective of this study was to measure the social innovation capacity of the DR Church. The method put forth by Forsman (2011:743) was selected to measure innovation capacity in a social context. This literature review explored the concepts of social entrepreneurship, innovation, social innovation and innovation capacity. As discussed, this organisation has contributed greatly to the social changes witnessed in South Africa, and it still has a role to play in the current and future South Africa.



Research design

The three research questions of this study focussed on the social innovation capacity of the DR Church. In this research study, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were held with board members of the DR Church in order to determine their opinions regarding the social innovation capacity, what internal and external factors influence the social innovation capacity, and the issues that prohibit social innovation capacity in the DR Church. The purpose for selecting a generic qualitative research design was to explore the multiple opinions of the board members of the DR Church with regard to the umbrella topic of social innovation capacity. The results of the study were interpreted along with the literature of other studies to determine whether a similar phenomenon of limited innovation capacity is present in the DR Church (Creswell & Poth 2017:67).


The units of analyses for this research study comprised the multiple congregations and organisations of the DR Church in Pretoria. The DR Church consists of several homogenous congregations and organisations in Pretoria. Homogenous sampling was used for selecting participants. The participants had to know the DR Church as a denomination well in order to comprehend the current state of the organisation. The advantage of this sampling method is that the opinions of the participants could be compared more easily. A disadvantage was that not all of the participants fully comprehended the current state of the denomination owing to their limited experience. It was a requirement that the participants must be over the age of 18 years, having served on a DR Church board for more than 3 years. Table 1 summarises the sampling design that was followed for this research study.



Data collection

As mentioned, 12 face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted between August and October 2017, and the audio recordings were transcribed within 2 weeks after the interview by the researchers. The transcripts were then analysed using qualitative analysis methods. Elliott (2005:18) stated that interviews (including semi-structured interviews) are central to the social sciences and their data collection methods. The purpose of these conversations was to collect expert opinions in the form of textual data (transcriptions of conversations) that were analysed. Open-ended questions were used to provide the interviewee with the opportunity to express his or her opinion regarding a specific situation, the reason being that more data could be extracted from each participant as the population from which the empirical data was derived was small (Creswell 2014:157).

Data analysis

A thematic analysis approach was used to determine patterns formed in the data. The transcripts were coded and analysed by the use of a qualitative research analysis programme. The codes were linked to the research questions and themes and sub-themes were identified.


The trustworthiness of this study was ensured by using credibility and conformability strategies. The credibility of the research study was supported by firstly gathering as much information as possible on the DR Church as an organisation. The DR Church was researched in detail in the literature review. Being familiar with the organisation was crucial in asking the correct questions in the semi-structured interviews. The data were also triangulated by means of sampling from different congregations within the DR Church. Interviewees were given the assurance that they would remain anonymous. Member checking was implemented as a last strategy to ensure that what the interviewee said and what the interviewer understood was congruent.

According to Lietz and Zayas (2010:197), a study must prove that the data and findings are clearly linked in order to reach confirmability. The first technique implemented to demonstrate confirmability was the use of open-ended questions. The semi-structured interview questions were formulated in a manner that would not lead the interviewee to a specific answer. Transcriptions and recordings were simultaneously read and listened to, respectively, in order to correctly understand and interpret the context in which a question was asked and answered. This ensured that interviews were also peer-reviewed by both members in the research team.

Ethical considerations

Ethical clearance was granted by the University of Pretoria's Research Ethical Committee on 18 August 2017. Before the interview, the interviewers explained that participation in this study was voluntary. The participants signed a consent form stating that they agree to participate in the research on condition that their identity would remain confidential.



In this section, the findings of this research are reported per research question. The seven-point measurement method created and tested by Forsman (2011) to test innovation capabilities identified the main and sub-themes necessary to measure the innovation capacity of the DR Church in the Pretoria area. The research questions are linked with the three-point measurement method in such a manner that innovation capacity within the involved organisation could be measured.

The degree of innovation capabilities (measured by the seven-dimension system) forms part of the three variables used to measure the degree of innovation capacity.

Findings related to research question 1

The first research question: What is the current social innovation capacity of the DR Church with reference to its innovation capabilities? (To determine the development capabilities of the organisation). The main themes included entrepreneurial capabilities and development capabilities.

Entrepreneurial capabilities

The participants of the organisation displayed capabilities to not only recognise new opportunities but also to seize and develop them. Most of the participants said that opportunity recognition is a slow process in the organisation but that it does still exist. The participants referred to many opportunities in the region that were identified and seized. Examples of this include practical outreach programmes such as education programmes and giving handouts/education to those living on the streets in the area. Local townships are also the destinations for many outreach programmes. This usually includes reaching out to those who are poor. Many participants said that listening to the needs of those living in the townships is important as they are not open to receiving handouts. Many of the participants referred to a book entitled: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself (Corbett & Fikkert 2014), mentioning that a community must be open to receiving help before helping can exert a positive impact.

Development capabilities

The participants of the organisation displayed developmental capabilities. They mentioned growth and cell groups that stimulate personal and member growth in the organisation. Other social events contribute to more people coming to the organisation, which might include dances (sokkies) and other events for the younger members. The organisation is experiencing personal and member growth with a family ministry, which includes groups for mothers, babies and married couples. Where resistance exists (in any form), the members and board members meet to talk, listen and reduce the friction caused by the resistance. The organisation is very sensitive to criticism.

Many of the participants indicated the importance of the music ministry. All of the participants have modernised their music in one way or another to fit their specific style. Modern songs can be stylised in a classical fashion in order to adapt to the style of a specific congregation.

Findings related to research question 2

The second research question: What internal and external factors influence the social innovation capacity of the DR Church? The main themes included capabilities for knowledge exploitation and networking.

Capabilities for knowledge exploitation

The participants of the organisation displayed strong capabilities to recognise, exploit and internalise new knowledge from external sources. The organisation believes that external knowledge is important. The participants referred to the training of ministers at an academic institution (university faculty) rather than a seminary. They also have philosophical and medical knowledge from the academic institution. The academic knowledge is then used in sermons and talks to reduce friction (exploited and internalised).

Participants also referred to popular sources such as magazines and the Internet as possible sources of external knowledge to be internalised. Many participants referred to their own census research before an outreach, as the local census of the government might be less reliable for the specific outreach programmes (external data used in programmes). Many participants referred to external books and programmes as external knowledge. Examples of the external programmes used are the Alpha and Strength Finder courses.

External technical knowledge is also identified and exploited internally, for example, the newest financial software, data projectors, websites and social media. The participants referred to ministers and board members who are keen to learn from other disciplines and experts. For example, many participants displayed an intent to learn more from the field of psychology. Members of the organisation are skilled in various disciplines; the organisation exploits and internalises these skills of these members very well.

Internalised skills of members are in the realms of finance, music, psychology, real-estate and information technology.

Networking capabilities

The participants of the organisation displayed strong capabilities to network. Participants referred to the different networks between academic fields. Theology is the primary field of study for the organisation, but other fields of study are incorporated with their experts in appropriate scientific conversation.

All participants were in favour of organisational (church) unity and stated that networking with other institutions is important. In a healthy situation, there are always first voices crying out against social injustices. The organisation listens to these voices and supports them in many cases. Examples of such cases include the organisation when it listened to voices crying out against the social injustices of apartheid. The organisation eventually joined forces with those who cried out. The participants mentioned that the organisation supports the voices crying out against the socio-economic injustices of the current government of South Africa. The organisation also participates in local (Pretoria area) social action such as the fees-must-fall movement. Participants reported that racism is a major issue, and that the organisation attempts to help the various parties not to increase the distance between races, but to rather build an understanding of one another.

Many participants said that it is the responsibility of the organisation to listen to the leaders from other organisations (churches) to simply attempt to understand their living context and to build relationships.

Leaders of the organisation displayed a need not to 'work for' other organisations (churches) but to 'work with' them. Certain participants said that reform celebrations cannot begin without respecting their brothers and sisters from other organisations (churches). This includes helping them with the resources that they do not have.

Participants referred to their own and other church denominations, saying that their relationship with the government is difficult, as the government regards the larger church community as a provider of unnecessary criticism.

Currently, there are limited to no existing networking capabilities within the government across this domain.

Findings related to research question 3

Research question 3: What prevalent issues exist that prohibit social innovation in the DR Church? The main themes included risk management capabilities and change management capabilities.

Risk management capabilities

Abilities for risk-taking and assessment: Most of the participants said that the denomination sometimes misses possible opportunities, because it is too scared of the risk attached to certain opportunities. The ministers and board members also realise that they make decisions on behalf of the denomination and its members, resulting in decision-makers being more risk-minded.

All the participants said that the denomination does not easily take high financial risks. The use of the facilities also poses a major risk, which results in financial implications and various risks. The organisation does not want to abuse its facilities.

Social issues were also identified by many participants as a potential risk, with change being the main risk in whatever form. The so-called gay debate (to allow LGBTQ+ persons as ministers) and the Belhar debate (a change in the confession documents) were used as examples of risk factors by many of the participants. The risk included losing members when change happens, regardless of the direction of the change. The risk of losing members also results in financial losses. Most of the participants said that it is more important to make the correct decision (moral and Biblical) than to make an incorrect decision to please certain people or parties. Most of the participants mentioned that they are very willing to make the correct decision and to accept the resulting risk. The risk is handled in such a manner that the organisation's changed position on a specific subject is discussed and communicated to all involved members and parties.

A major risk identified by some of the participants was that there were uninformed members and non-members with outdated views who did not understand the current changes and decisions. This would usually result in negative critique (risk). Participants said that such individuals (risks) should participate in discussions and must be informed of current reasons for social change. Conversation is the preferred way to handle such risks of change. The denomination is willing to accept the risk of conversations.

Participants also mentioned that the environment is the responsibility of all people and the risk needs to be taken seriously. Environmental friendliness is a topic on which the denomination conducts discussions.

To speak out against racism is also a possible risk for the organisation as the organisation initially supported apartheid, but later, in the 1980s, changed to radically oppose it. This was a change-related risk that the organisation took and is still willing to accept.

The participants said that the younger generations forced them to be more open to risk-taking as they require new and innovative ways of thinking. The younger generations can also promise much but deliver nothing, as their dreams mostly remain dreams. Most participants said that the younger generation also forces willingness to accept new risks and refers to change in society and music as topics of discussion.

The participants were confident that many skilled members were attending to different risks, as different committees are responsible for the accompanied risks. The financial, real-estate, human-resources, safety and change committees are a few examples.

Change management capabilities

Many participants said that the denomination has a slow decision-making system, but that this had recently improved. Participants stated that many congregations had changed to a more efficient and quicker decision-making system over the past few years, resulting in a local management system (concerning the church board) that is able to respond to change more quickly. Most participants, however, mentioned that the response of the larger system of the denomination is still slow, referring to the gay and Belhar debates (as previously discussed).

Findings related to research question 4

General question: Current life cycle of the organisation?

Market and member (customer) knowledge (knowledge regarding the life cycle of the organisation)

The members and those receiving social assistance from the denomination is equated to customers in a commercial context, as they are the receivers of the services of the denomination. The life cycle of the denomination paints a direct picture of the members and those receiving social assistance.

All the participants placed the denomination (as an organisation) in a phase of maturity or growth. Some participants mentioned that the organisations have witnessed a decline in the past but that maturity is the current phase. The participants stated that maturity or growth refers to an organisational efficiency and number of members. Some participants said that their financial position is weakening and links it with the economic climate.



Summary of findings and theoretical implications

The aim of this research paper was to measure the current social innovation capacity of the DR Church to determine the level at which the church is meeting new social needs. Social innovation capacity was measured by the three variables that Forsman (2011) created and tested. A variable tested the degree of innovation capability (measured by the seven-dimension system). Each variable is now discussed in a social context.

Research and development investment

Most of the participants said that R&D is the responsibility of the ministers and not necessarily the board members. Of the group interviewed, the average R&D time spent per week is 8.8 hours (total average), while the ministers in the group interviewed averaged 12.2 hours (total average). The organisation involved operates within the social sector in South Africa. There are no existing comparative studies that have measured time spent on R&D within the same context. In contrast, Pinelli, Barclay and Kennedy (1996) reported that The National Aeronautics and Space Administration aerospace scientists and engineers spend 12.1 hours (total average) on producing written material and 11.6 hours (total average) communicating information. Ministers in the DR Church show a strong tendency to invest time in R&D.

The degree of innovation capabilities

The degree of innovation capabilities was measured according to the seven-point measurement system created and tested by Forsman (2011:794). The results of the findings were as follows:

· Capabilities for knowledge exploitation: The organisation believes that external knowledge is important and displays a strong tendency to recognise, internalise and exploit it in new innovations. The organisation gives the impression that the origin of most innovations is generated externally.

· Entrepreneurial capabilities: The organisation displayed average entrepreneurial capabilities as it recognises new opportunities and seizes some of them, but exploiting new opportunities is a slow process that takes much time and effort.

· Risk management capabilities: The organisation is unwilling to accept new financial risks, while it hesitates to take new risks in a social context as those risks could result in an outflux of members (donors), which would result in financial loss. The organisation displayed strong tendencies to identify risks as members with various skills attend to the handling of risks, while most risks that the organisation accepts are forced by circumstances. The organisation thus has to be willing to accept certain risks.

· Networking capabilities: The organisation displayed strong capabilities to network and to collaborate with other denominations. The organisation views networking as a critical and mandatory part of its work.

· Development capabilities: The organisation displayed average capabilities to develop as new ways are sometimes implemented to grow on a small scale.

· Change management capabilities: The various congregations within the organisation are improving their system to increase the speed of decision-making, but the larger denominational system is currently slow in this aspect.

· Market and member (customer) knowledge (knowledge regarding the life cycle of the organisation): The organisation displayed a tendency to be in the maturity phase or growth phase after maturity.

External input into innovation development through networking

External input through networking into innovation can be measured by identifying positive impact, no impact and negative impact. No participant mentioned negative impact on innovation through networking, while a few referred to examples where networking resulted in no impact (decided against the accompanied innovation). All the participants reported many positive impacts exerted on innovation through networking.

It is the finding of this study that, overall, the networking impact of innovation on the DR Church is positive.

The variable of external input into innovation development through networking was thus reported positively by most of the participants on many accounts.

Social innovation capacity measurement

According to the three variables advanced by Forsman (2011), it can be concluded that the DR Church as an organisation possesses strong and average elements of capacity for innovation, as discussed.


Research and development investment

During this research, it became clear that the amount of time spent on R&D by the ministers in the organisation is quite extensive (as calculated). It is significant that both the ministers and board members said that the R&D responsibility lies with the ministers only. It can be recommended that all persons in management positions (ministers and board members) should engage in the R&D process, which could include reading similar books, for example. Advance research platforms are available to continuously assess the micro, meso and macro environment to reactively and proactively address change and needs. A deliberate programme should be established within the managerial structure of the entity to formally address the latter.

The degree of innovation capabilities

The DR Church displayed strong innovation capabilities in three dimensions, namely: capabilities regarding knowledge exploitation, networking and market and member (customer) knowledge. The DR Church displayed average innovation capabilities in four dimensions (on which the organisation could improve in future), namely: entrepreneurial, risk management, development and change management capabilities.

Throughout this study, it became clear that those in management positions (ministers and board members) of the DR Church could improve on these aspects. An entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial mindset should be applied within the managerial sphere to continuously identify opportunities towards finding sustainable outputs (without negating the core offering of the church).

External input into innovation development through networking

This research reveals that the organisation displays a strong capability to experience a positive influence on innovation by networks. It is recommended that the organisation continues to enjoy a positive effect by networks but also to exploit networks to gain more positive influences. Networking, again, is an entrepreneurial approach towards identifying and developing innovative opportunities with high levels of social impact. Internal and external stakeholders should be integrated in the networking process with an open innovation approach coupled with high levels of absorptive capacity (e.g. the ability to assimilate new information in creating new products/services).

Limitations and directions for future research

The limitations of this research study include:

· No financial analysis was made.

· The scope of the research data was area bound (Pretoria, South Africa).

· The scope of the research data was organisation-specific (DR Church).

· Semi-structured interviews were used as part of a qualitative study (which includes the limitations).

Directions for future research:

· Financial analysis of any social organisation to measure social innovation or social entrepreneurial capabilities.

· Measure social innovation capacity of any other social organisation.



Competing interests

The views expressed in this article are that of the authors and not an official position of the institution or funder.

Authors' contributions

A.A., W.J.S. and W.F.J.v.D. were co-authors and were involved in the research design, while W.J.S. and W.F.J.v.D. were involved in fieldwork.



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Alex Antonites

Received: 07 Oct. 2018
Accepted: 09 Feb. 2019
Published: 23 May 2019

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A missional hermeneutic for the transformation of theological education in Africa



Nelus Niemandt

Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





The wide acceptance and maturation of the theology of missio Dei is the most important development in the theology of mission in recent times. It introduced a radically new understanding of mission and theology, and flowing from that a re-appropriation of ecclesiology. Mission studies are also characterised by a new appreciation of mission from the margins: liberation theology and the associated discourses on decoloniality, deep engagement in contextuality and the explosion of missional ecclesiology (missional church). This apostolic orientation of the church is of the utmost importance in the reflection on the future of theology. This research attends to the postcolonial discourse as an important critique of colonialism and understands the emancipation of Africanised or decolonised theological education as an inevitable and positive development. Contextual sensitivity, attention to diverse power structures and a predisposition to appreciate diversity open imaginative possibilities for theological education. This leads to the argument that decolonial African theology must confront issues of biblical hermeneutics. The proposal of this research is that missional hermeneutic is an excellent starting point. It describes the contours of a missional hermeneutic, attending to mission as central to the Biblical story, the meaning of mission and the conviction that reading Scriptures constitutes an essential part of missional praxis. Missional hermeneutic is a centring vision and purpose for theological education. The argument is for a missional curriculum that defines a centre that unifies the various disciplines, one that places mission and missiology at the heart of theological education.

Keywords: Hermeneutics; Missional hermeneutics; Missional church; Theological education; Encyclopedia of theology.




The theological enterprise in general, and theological education as well as mission studies in the South African context in particular, finds itself at the confluence of a number of significant events that challenge conventions and approaches. Researchers use the concept of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world (see Kok & Jordaan 2019:5) to describe the state of affairs. Volatility refers to the speed, magnitude and dynamics of change, while uncertainty describes the lack of predictability, the prospect for surprise and the need for a sense of awareness and understanding. Complexity alludes to the confounding of issues, the lack of clear cause-and-effect chains and general confusion surrounding organisations. Ambiguity brings ideas of haziness of reality to mind (Kornelson 2019:32). It is a world of superdiversity, a diversity within diversity or form of 'diastratification'. This is diversity and complexity within diversity (Kok & Jordaan 2019:5). To this, we must add human mobility and migration. This constant movement of people is closely associated with, and reciprocally influenced by globalisation (Niemandt 2013:22-39).

This is the age of acceleration (Friedman 2016:26-27) where the network society became hyper-connected, and where the acceleration in computing power and smart technology leads to seamless complexity.

Friedman initially called it a 'flat world'. Thinking about the prevalent complexity and superdiversity, I would like to call it a 'superfast flat mosaic'. These influences do not leave South Africa and Africa untouched. South Africa is similarly a complex mosaic: it has 11 official languages; a multitude of ethnic groups; widely diverging histories; all major religions are present; it experienced various phases of colonialisation and decolonialisation; it hosts many formal and informal economic approaches; and many stories compete for attention (Niemandt 2019:152). It also does not leave the theological enterprise untouched.

Guder (2015:20) reminds us that there is wide-ranging consensus in the missiological discussion that authentic theology must be 'contextual', 'local', at home in and relevant to the particular setting within which a Christian community confesses and witnesses to its faith.


New theologies of mission

It is no surprise then that mission studies, with its inherent sensitivity towards and alignment with contextualisation, are influenced by these contextual changes. New theologies of mission are emerging. The mission affirmation of the World Council of Churches, Together towards Life (Keum 2013), The Cape Town Commitment (Lausanne Movement 2011), more recently The Arusha Call to Discipleship (World Council of Churches 2018) and a variety of emerging theologies impact on mission studies. To mention but some of the exciting themes that entertain missiologists: a new appreciation of mission from the margins, liberation theology and the associated discourses on decoloniality, the maturity of a theological consensus on the missio Dei, contextual awareness and practice and deep engagement in contextuality and the explosion of missional ecclesiology (and especially the concept of missional church). Skreslet (2012:loc. 4426) concludes his comprehensive overview on missiology with the remark that bright prospects lie ahead for those who might want to study Christian mission in all its aspects. Missiologists in Africa and South Africa can likewise expect interesting times.

This research recognises the multitude of influences in a superfast flat mosaic, and the broad range of challenges it represents, but focuses more specifically on a theological and missiological engagement with the missio Dei, the resultant missional ecclesiology, and how contextual challenges such as decoloniality and missiological futures such as mission from the margins, might come together to open up new possibilities for the discipline.

This focus inevitably implies a critique of the current structure of theological education that received its main features in a Christendom and colonial paradigm where Christianity practically ceased to be a missional religion (Guder 2016:293).


Mature missional ecclesiology

One of the most important developments in mission studies and the theology of mission is the wide acceptance of the theology of missio Dei. This can certainly be called the most important development in the theology of mission in recent times. It introduced a radically new understanding of mission and theology, and mission studies are still grappling with the implications, which stretch far beyond the traditional cross-cultural missionary task of the church (Goheen 2016:303). There is indeed a growing consensus on the Trinitarian theology of the missio Dei, and flowing from that a re-appropriation of and understanding of ecclesiology (see also Skreslet 2012:loc. 784). African theologian Mashau (2012:7) observes: 'The supremacy of God needs to be rediscovered in the practice of theology. The doctrine of God should therefore be taught with explicit reference to God's missional character'.

The missio Dei defines the essence and substance of the church. Missio Dei is God's plan to save the world.

Mission is an eternal reality rooted in God's sending of the son and the procession of the Spirit from the Godhead. It is not only a case of God doing the sending, but also God in his very essence being a sending or missional God. Life in the Trinity is a dynamic life of sending and being sent, of interdependence and the outpouring of love. Mission begins in the heart of the triune God and the unifying love which binds together the Holy Trinity which overflows to all humanity and creation. This divine love is found in the reciprocal interdependence and self-dedication of the Trinitarian members to each other, and the active relations of love throughout eternity (Franke 2016:92). 'God's love,' says Conradie (2015:104), 'is epitomised in the well-being of the whole household of God'. It is the activity through which the triune God causes his kingdom to come into this world.

The missio Dei is at the core of being church. Skreslet (2012: loc. 799-800) explains that missio Dei language interprets the church as a sent community, dispatched by the triune God for witness in the world.

He (2012:loc. 791) explains that the language of missio Dei gave theologians a way to connect churches and their missionary programmes to the entire history of divine revelation attested in the Bible. There is no church without mission, and no mission without the church (Kärkkäinen 2002:loc. 1786).

The term missional church gained prominence in the work of the Gospel in our Culture Network (GOCN) and with books such as Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Guder (1998) and Church Next by Gibbs (2000). The works of Lesslie Newbigin, and the influential Transforming Mission by David Bosch (1991), played an important role in laying the groundwork for this new interest in mission, and the focus on the place of God's church and the vocation of disciples to participate in God's mission.

The church is a communion in the triune God and participates in the mission of God. Bosch (1991) explains:

The classical doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another 'movement': Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world. (p. 390)

In the words of Lausanne III (Lausanne Movement 2011): 'Our mission is wholly derived from God's mission, addresses the whole of God's creation, and is grounded at its centre in the redeeming victory of the cross'.

This apostolic orientation of the church is of the utmost importance in the reflection on the future of the church as well as theology. The church as a witnessing community must always be kept to its apostolic mission, which is to form gathered and sent communities who would continue the witness to God's salvation in Christ - this is nothing less than the original reason for the existence of those very communities (Guder 2016:288). As Bosch (1982:22) proposed an approach that weaves together the church's being, its up-building and its mission, the discourse (and renewed reflection on the work of Barth) matured with the wide acceptance of the missionary nature of the church and the identity of the church within the triune God's mission. Mashau (2012) argues:

Missiology covers the entire scope of theology without relegating all of theology to mission and missiology. Missiology has the function to provide scientific description and analysis of the life of the church in the past and in the present, but at the same time, it provides a normative critical function with regard to the future of the church and the manner in which the church should conduct its activities towards that future. (p. 5)

In conclusion, Goheen summarised the vast implication of this tectonic theological shift and mentions the implications for a missional hermeneutic, missional theology and missional theological education (Goheen 2016:303-304). Mission studies and the nature of theological reflection on and training for mission will be shaped by the near universal consensus on the missio Dei, and the wide-ranging implications of this approach for ecclesiology. This is especially relevant in terms of Mashau's (2012:1) conclusion that theological training in both the minority and majority worlds has failed to live up to the expectations created by the conviction that mission is the heart of theology. On the contrary, Missiology as a theological discipline has struggled to find a home in many theological institutions in the world (Mashau 2012:1).


Decolonialised theological education

Reflecting on the church and its theological enterprise in the last two centuries, one must acknowledge that one of the most visible characteristics is the fact that the church and much of the discourse on mission were dominated by a colonial framework (Goheen 2016:7).

Bosch (1982:16) warned about the colonial approach to mission studies and mission. There is a legacy of close liaison between Christian missions and Western colonialism, and, says Bosch, 'the modifications in our missionary policies and practises are little more than superficial modernizations and adjustments'.

Goheen (2016:7) summarises some of the characteristics of this colonial framework:

1. Mission is a task for parachurch organisations and the church has a pastoral function.

2. The world is divided into a Christian West and a non-Christian rest (mission fields).

3. Mission happens on non-Western mission fields.

4. There is no need for mission in the West, because it is already Christian.

Guder (2015:23-24) is also highly critical of the reductionist nature of such a 'Euro-centred theology and practice of mission'. He mentions the following problems:

1. the church's partnership with power, wealth, property and social prestige

2. the reduction of the gospel to individual salvation and thus a failure to attend to the fullness of the message of the in-breaking reign of God in Jesus Christ

3. the tendency to make the church into the institution that administers individual salvation, failing to attend to the comprehensive nature of the reign of God breaking in now in Jesus Christ.

Recent discourses on coloniality added a deeper understanding of the colonial framework:

1. It is an epistemic system or, more precisely, an epistemic hierarchy that privileges Western knowledge and cosmology over non-Western knowledge and cosmologies. It presumes that Western knowledge, world views, social constructions, imaginaries, practices, hierarchies and even violence are superior.

2. 'Coloniality' also refers to the persistent socio-economic and political stratification according to Eurocentric standards.

3. Niemandt (2017:214) argues that the prosperity cult that is sweeping through Africa like a veld fire is also a form of global capitalism (and coloniality) that has succeeded in spiritualising the materiality of that system.

4. It represents a protest against the dominance of Eurocentric thinking (see Niemandt 2017:214), and is as such part and parcel of the new appreciation of mission from the margins. The World Council of Churches (WCC) argues in Together towards life that mission has been understood as a movement taking place from the centre to the periphery, and from the privileged to the marginalised of society: 'Now people at the margins are claiming their key role as agents of mission and affirming mission as transformation'. The decolonial turn is a turn towards the marginalised as agents of mission.

Decoloniality is the discovery of agency by theologians from Africa, South America and other emerging Christians. As Maluleke (2000:28) explains, there is 'a new wave of awareness of the agency of ordinary marginalised Africans'. He explains that the agency of African Christians and the African poor is being rediscovered, explored and respectfully interpreted (2000:31). Decoloniality is a response to the relation of direct, political, social and cultural domination established by Europeans and their Euro-North American descendants (Quijano 2007:168). More importantly, theology and missiology is redefining itself, because the dismantling has collapsed colonial system, which began following World War II (Van Gelder 2007:20), has now finally collapsed (Goheen 2016:8).

The postcolonial discourse and decolonial turn represent an important critique of and correction to the colonial framework and approach. The emancipation of Africanised or decolonised theological education and ecumenical mission in Southern Africa is an inevitable and positive development.

Niemandt (2017:210) argues that the decolonial discourse is also a 'glocal' issue, that is, both recognising the broader discourses in theology, but also the construction of a localised theology. It is the construction of a variety of 'local theologies' (Bosch 1991:427). 'The Africanisation of Theology', says Niemandt (2017:210), 'must attend to ways in which the gospel narrative relates to, and plays into, local narratives and theologies'. Maluleke (2000:26) warns that there is no united, homogeneous Africa or African identity - 'there are and should be many and various ways of being an African'.

The decolonial discourse is more about the future than the past, and more about a contextual awareness and practice that engages appreciatively, but also critically, with cultural and contextual realities. Yes, it is certainly important to engage with all the legacies of colonialism, but we have the opportunity to participate in the postcolonial debate with all of its creative potential to open new futures.

One of the important issues flowing from the contextualisation of the gospel is the demand to engage with local context and a sensitivity towards marginalised people. The decolonial discourse is part and parcel of the broader appreciation of mission from the margins. Marginalised people are experts in contextualisation because they have a 'double-consciousness' that exposes local realities that the centre is bound to miss.

The decolonial discourse is also developing into a more intercultural approach to education and theology.

Coloniality represented a kind of mono-cultural Western mould that spilled over into the shaping of theological education and congregational imagination. The contextual sensitivity, attention to diverse power structures and predisposition to appreciate diversity open new imaginative possibilities for theological education and challenge the reflection on this theme.


A missional hermeneutic and theological education

This exploration of missional ecclesiology, and the attempt to imagine new futures for Transformative Theological education in Africa, must incorporate these recent developments in mission studies and the theology of mission, and engage with local realities and the decolonial turn in the African and more particularly the South African context. Maluleke (2000:31) argued that a decolonial post-apartheid African theology must confront issues of biblical hermeneutics. This research proposes that a missional hermeneutic is an important component of the reflection and an excellent starting point. A missional ecclesiology has a correlational-hermeneutical approach to theology, meaning that it correlates or compares various perspectives and initiates a dialogue between them. This is a fertile vantage point from which to develop a transformative theological education. The implications of the missional nature of the church, and the eventual impact on congregational life, must be worked out in terms of theological education and curriculum.

The starting point for the transformation of theological education in Africa is the development of an appropriate missional hermeneutic. 'African theological approaches have bidden farewell to hermeneutical innocence', says Maluleke (2000:32), and there is a need to take conscious responsibility for the complex task of hermeneutics, both in terms of the Bible and contextual realities.


The contours of a missional hermeneutic

This research explains the contours of a missional hermeneutic, following the description of Bauckham and Goheen (Goheen 2016:15). This is followed by an exploration of the implications of a missional hermeneutic for theological education. This includes an appreciation of congregations, witnessing communities and the church as a hermeneutic of the gospel (Newbigin), and the importance of a missional hermeneutic that shapes doctrine (Guder).

The contours of a missional hermeneutic:

1. Contours of a missional hermeneutic - Mission as central to the Biblical story: The missio Dei is disclosed in a historical narrative relating the story of God's covenant with a particular people to participate in God's mission and fulfilling of his universal purpose of restoration. Wright (2010:loc. 462) reminds us to take the story as a whole and calls this the biblical storyline consisting of 'Creation, Fall, Redemption in History, and New Creation'. The Bible relates the story of God acting and his love overflowing to his chosen people Israel, to all the nations and all of creation. 'The church is caught up in this movement of God's redemptive work from the particular to the universal' (Goheen 2016:16). Bauckham (2016:29-30) calls this a canonical interpretation and a narrative interpretation. A canonical interpretation approaches scripture as a canonical whole. A narrative approach recognises the importance of narrative and how narratives shape identity and the future. Bauckham (2016:30) explains that narrative ' creates its own world in front of the text and so interprets our world for us '. A missional hermeneutic is a way of reading the Bible with mission as its central interest and goal. Mashau (2012:5) states: 'Service to the missio Dei should serve as one of the hermeneutical keys to help us understand the biblical text'. The missio Dei is the unitive narrative theme of the Bible (Hunsberger 2016:45). Flemming (2015:loc. 155-156) explains that it seeks to engage 'in an intentional, self-involved, missional reading of scripture as a whole'. It is a metanarrative about all reality, within which many other stories are told. Although there might be considerable postmodern critique of grand narratives, Conradie argues that we need metanarratives, and especially cosmological metanarratives, and pretending not to have metanarratives might be even worse (Conradie 2015:124).

2. Contours of a missional hermeneutic - The meaning of mission: The conviction that mission is the dominant motif and framing metanarrative in the biblical story impacts on theology and the theology of mission. The insight in the theology of mission can be briefly summarised as follows.

God is the agent of mission. Mission is the redemptive work of the triune God - mission begins with God. 'The Bible', explains Goheen (2016:21), 'narrates the work of the triune God to restore the whole of creation and the whole of mankind from the corrupting effects of sin'.

One cannot understand mission without beginning with reflection about the Trinity - the Trinity is the determining reality of the church (Volf 1998:195). Mashau (2012:4) refers to the Trinitarian foundation of missiology. This includes reflection on the economic Trinity - the sending work and missional life of the triune God, and the relational Trinity - the communion in the Trinity is a communion that flows outwards.

This provides the frame for Christian mission as the proclamation of the Kingdom of the Father, to share the love of Jesus Christ with all and to be witnesses of the powerful work of the Spirit (see also Van Gelder 2007:29). Van Gelder (2007:30) argues that both the economic and relational approaches to the Trinity enhance and deepen the understanding of ecclesiology and missiology: 'This relationship provides the framework for understanding the nature, ministry, and organisation of missional congregations' (Van Gelder 2007:30). The two perspectives remind us that the sending, communal God works in and through community. God is the primary agent of mission, and the church secondary (Elton 2007:147).

Mashau (2012:4) also mentions the eschatological foundation of missiology and relates this with the mission of the church: 'The mission of the church is, therefore, to be directed towards the nations with an eye to the coming of Christ and his kingdom'.

3. Contours of a missional hermeneutic - Reading Scripture equips the church for missional praxis: One can say that Bosch was one of the early pioneers in his appreciation of the missional direction and missional purpose of the New Testament. His paradigmatic approach opened up new perspectives and possibilities. It also focused on the relation between God's mission and the mission of the church. Scriptures inspire and inform the church for its missionary praxis. The interplay between the community of faith and the scriptures does not only contain the gospel, but is the gospel - it is part of the coming of God's kingdom into the world (Goheen 2016:25). Scripture shapes a faithful people and brings healing to the world through this shaping and living of the gospel. The Faith and Order Commission of the WCC (World Council of Churches 2013:8) formulates it as follows:

The Church, as the body of Christ, acts by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue his life-giving mission in prophetic and compassionate ministry and so participates in God's work of healing a broken world.

This represents a theological interpretation of the Bible that brings scripture and theology into conversation. It recognises the importance of the Bible in the life and origin of Christian communities and the intention of the Bible to shape these communities in their love for God and others (Flemming 2015:loc. 160-164). Gorman reminds us that the only point of entry into the gospel story is the story narrated in the life, worship and proclamation of the Church - 'Through its service and being as witness, the Church is a rendering of the gospel to the world' (Gorman 2015:loc. 83-85).

A missional hermeneutic recognises the important and formational role of the Bible in early Christian communities and constantly asks, 'How did this written testimony form and equip God's people for their missional vocation then, and how does it do so today'? (Guder 2015:14).

This brief discussion of the contours of a missional hermeneutic has important implications in the conceptualisation of mission studies, the decolonial discourse as well as theology as such. Goheen (2016:27) warns that a non-missional reading of the Bible is crippling the church in the West, 'fostering self-centredness and thwarting a missional encounter with culture'. It is clear that the growing consensus of the ideas concerning missional church, and the growth in missional hermeneutics, are deeply related to the decolonial discourse. Maluleke's (2000:32) remark that we have bidden farewell to hermeneutical innocence comes to mind. The decolonial discourse can contribute much to the future of mission studies and theology, and even more so if it embraces a missional hermeneutic, which should be the default approach given the sensitivity towards contextualisation and a 'glocal' approach.

Bauckham (2016:37) raises the issue of 'dubious totalisation', and whether the appreciation of a metanarrative might not be oppressive. Can one reconcile a missional hermeneutic with a predisposition for a metanarrative with a decolonial approach with its focus on contextualisation, the local and the marginalised? He warns against the danger of focusing only on local narratives and ignoring wider relevance and the desire for meaning. The impetus of the biblical witness is that God's people are the witnesses to his truth and sole deity. Mission is 'the making known of God's name' and 'God's name names the narrative identity he gives himself in the biblical story' (Bauckham 2016:38). Missional hermeneutics appreciates the complexity and diversity of scripture and the relative openness of the biblical narrative, inviting God's people to participate in God's mission. It also values the issue of contextualisation. The biblical narrative, in its openness to the future, is open to the inclusion of other narratives in their own 'particularity and diversity, narratives of other times and places, other groups and individuals ' (Bauckham 2016:41). This is perhaps what Sanneh (1989) intended with his description of the translatability of the gospel in Translating the message. The missionary impact on culture.

Contextualisation (and inculturation) is always a critical engagement with context. 'This means that the Gospel', argue Van Gelder and Zschweile (2018:42), 'can become good news to everyone, everywhere, in language and within cultural expressions that are understandable, knowable, and accessible'. Inasmuch as the gospel is inherently translatable, the church - which we profess to be universal (catholic) - is also inherently translatable with the inherent ability to live in every place and become contextual within every cultural setting (Van Gelder & Zschweile 2018:43).

Maluleke (2000:31) asks: 'Which biblical hermeneutics are the most appropriate and liberating for African Christians?' The core of the argument in this research is that the transformation of theological education in Africa through a missional ecclesiology starts with reflection on and the theological practice of a missional hermeneutic. 'Reading the bible missionally can aid the church in various ways', says Goheen (2016:27), ' and foster theological education that forms future leaders'.

Congregations as witnessing communities and the church as a hermeneutic of the gospel

Lesslie Newbigin understood the church as a missional community and as a hermeneutic of the gospel (Newbigin 1989:222-233). The focus is on the formation of communities of faith - on the congregation - and a congregational approach to theology. The church as a hermeneutic of the gospel implies that it proclaims the gospel story but that it is also, in its life and witness, the gospel. Guder (2015:104, 109) summarises the influence of Newbigin and explains that God is carrying out his saving and healing purposes for the world through gathered communities, referring to congregations. Guder argues that this influences the way the community of disciples approaches the Bible. The implication is that it will also shape theology.

Reading the Bible as a 'called and sent community' means constantly asking some version of the question, 'How did this text equip the missional church then for its vocation, and how does it do that today?' (Guder 2015:129). Theology is not merely an academic enterprise, or a contestation of ideas, isolated from the life or vocation of the church. Although it is technically possible to conduct theology in isolation from congregational life, Guder (2015:14) reminds us that 'the formation of the church for mission should be the motivating force that shapes and energizes our theological labors in all their diversity and distinctiveness'.


Missional hermeneutic as centring vision and purpose for theological education

The core of the issue is to propose a missional hermeneutic as centring vision and purpose for theological education (a unifying and directing core) and to engage in a case study to illustrate possibilities in this regard.

The 1952 meeting of the International Missionary Council in Willingen, Germany, can be described as the birthing moment of a new missional theology. This meeting already understood the important implications of the tectonic theological shift brought about by the missio Dei and stated:

This study has of necessity led us to consider theological education and we cannot but express our concern that theological education throughout the world should be much more radically orientated to the total missionary task of the Church. (Goheen 2016:304)

Hunsberger (2011:309-32; 2016:49-62; see also Flemming 2015:loc. 190-200) formulated four different 'streams' or understandings of a missional hermeneutic, which reflect much of the current ideas in terms of a missional hermeneutic:

· a focus on the missional direction of the biblical narrative, which tells the story of God's mission and the people who are sent to participate in God's mission. This works with the message and function of the biblical text

· a focus on the missional purpose of scripture - how the biblical writings equip and energise God's people to engage in the mission of God. This is also embedded in reflection on the biblical text

· a focus on the missional location of the Christian communities that are reading scripture and the questions they bring to the text. Here, the emphasis is on the reader and the context

· a focus the missional engagement with different cultures and social contexts. This is familiar missional engagement to critically engage various human contexts in the light of the gospel.

Looking at South Africa, the influence of a missional theology and the impetus to develop a missional hermeneutic are already evident in the grassroots development of a missional ecclesiology in many of the denominational partners in theological education in South Africa. Most of the universities that host faculties, departments or centres of theology do so in partnership with local denominations. At least the following come to mind: Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM), Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (NGKA), Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika (GKSA), Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Netherdutch Reformed Church in Africa (NHKA), Reformed Church in Africa (RCA), Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) and Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA).

Niemandt (2019:154) has shown that at least the following denominations made important policy decisions to facilitate the transformation towards missional church: ACSA, AFM, GKSA, NGK, NHKA, RCA and UPCSA. These, and many other congregations, are already part of the missional movement. To mention a few examples: Fresh Expressions South Africa (a joint venture in close co-operation with Fresh Expressions in the United Kingdom, and an expression of missional church1) is constituted by the following denominations: ACSA, Baptist Union, Methodist Church of Southern Africa, NGK, NHKA, United Congregational Church, UPCSA, URCSA and Vineyard Church. The South African Partnership for Missional Churches (SAPMC) is closely associated with Church Innovations,2 another organisation dedicated to the development and support of missional churches, and involved more than 250 congregations from the following denominations: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA), NGK, NHKA and URCSA.

This certainly represents a groundswell of change in the approach to church and congregations among a significant number of mainstream denominations - but this development is not as yet reflected in theological education in South Africa. This leads to growing pressure 'from below' to attend to a more missional approach to theological education.

A recent development in the NGK serves to illustrate the point. The leadership of the NGK accepted a policy document regarding theological education, and inter alia mention the following issues:

· The missional shift calls for renewal in thinking about ministerial development (theological education). It requires a different pedagogy than the cognitive, theoretical education we have become accustomed to. Theological education must develop knowledge, but must also attend to attitudes, skills and habits. It requires a formative pedagogy (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk 2018:3).

· Theological education must equip participants for the praxis of a missional vocation (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk 2018:9).

· One of the core capacities that must be developed is described as: 'Discerning where God is at work' and 'the ability to discern opportunities for missional ministry in the community' (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk 2018:35).

This is enhanced by the broader convergence of a new understanding of mission. It must, however, be underscored that the 'new understanding' of mission entails a comprehensive and holistic approach to mission. It refers to the whole church being called to discern God's mission and to embody it in all aspects of church life and witness, public and private, and to be faithfully present in the communities where the Holy Spirit called and sent the community of disciples. Goheen (2016:309) argues that the core of a missional identity is that of a people formed by the gospel for the sake of the world.

In summary - a missional hermeneutic changes everything and serves as a centring vision and purpose for theological education. We cannot continue theological education where the implicit task is to continue and maintain the corpus Christianum or powerful institutional churches. Goheen (2016:310) argues for a missional curriculum that defines a centre that unifies the various disciplines. Theological education centred round a missional hermeneutic will strive to form and equip the gathered community for its vocation to be witnesses to Christ in all places and circumstances (Guder 2016:285). Mashau (2012:8) argues that the reaffirmation of missional ecclesiology will lead to the affirmation of the missional theology, one 'that places mission and missiology at the heart of theological education'.

Goheen (2016:311-313) proposes three important components of the core:

· the gospel - The core is Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospel. A conversation about the gospel should be the first conversation that takes place in theological education, says Goheen (2016:311), 'as the basis for further theological work'

· the mission of God's people as they participate in God's mission

· the missional encounter between gospel and culture and thus the whole concept of contextualisation.

The establishment of the centrality of the proclamation of Jesus Christ is an important point of departure as this ensures the primacy of Jesus Christ rather than the survival or expansion of the church. From these, Goheen develops his proposal for a theological framework that can serve as a case study to inform local initiatives.


A case study of a transformed model for theological education

Goheen (2016:311-13) proposes a model for theological education that 'reveals the missional essence of congregational life', 'enables students to see the cultural situatedness of various theological disciplines, including the way that cultural spirits have shaped them'. This is, of course, a proposal that challenges a long tradition of the marginalisation of mission studies in especially Western theological institutions (Bosch 1982:17),3 an approach that seems to be in vogue again. Mashau (2012:5-8) follows more or less the same line of argument. The model is summarised in Figure 1.



1. A missional core: The idea is that mission will reframe all the other disciplines and that the place, role and content of the various disciplines will drive from this centre. Mashau (2012) explains:

The entire curriculum of theological training should therefore be missional, permeated by our theological understanding of God's mission and the missionary nature of the church as an instrument participating in the mission of God to advance his kingdom. (p. 8)

2. Biblical studies: The Reformation tradition played a major role in the curricular emphasis on biblical studies as one of the important components of academic theology. A missional hermeneutic understands scripture as a record and tool of God's mission to bring new life to all of creation in and through the people God calls and sends. This movement of God finds its 'climactic moment in Jesus Christ'. Flemming (2015:loc. 188-189) follows the same line of argument: 'Missional interpretation, then, tries to read scripture in light of God's comprehensive mission'. It is certainly not an attempt to reduce biblical studies to a missional hermeneutic, but rather a hermeneutic that is concerned about the theological or kerygmatic message of the text. Goheen (2016) explains that this comes from:

careful attention to the final form of the text in its canonical location in the context of the whole redemptive-historical story, in its location in the literary context of the theological message of the whole book, in keeping with its literary genre, its particular address in its original cultural and historical setting, and its fusion with our contemporary horizon. (pp. 316-317)

The traditional emphasis on biblical studies, biblical languages, exegesis, biblical history and biblical theology must be enhanced by creative engagement with the biblical understanding and practice of the witnessing community. We must remember that the purpose of apostolic mission was not to generate professional apostles or ordained ministers, but gathered and sent communities who continue to witness to the life God brings (Guder 2016:288). Mashau (2012:5) warns: 'The reading of both the Old and the New Testament should serve the gospel to the fullest, lest it becomes a void academic exercise that only enhances human knowledge'.

3. Systematic theology: The decolonial critique of big and powerful systems of Western knowledge organised around a Western historical agenda that is presumed to be universal illustrates the challenge systematic theology is facing. This is complicated by the narrative approach to scripture where story has been set up over and against system. Goheen (2016:319), however, argues for the place of systematic theology in theological education, calling it a thematic and synthesising discipline. Guder (2016:295) argues that the witnessing community needs the guidance of doctrinal theology formed by a missional hermeneutic and thus faithful to the scriptures. The importance of world views and the fact that many Christians face cultural idolatries also underscore the importance of the articulation of faith and the theological perspective on world views and belief systems. This refers to a broader understanding of world view, as explained by Smith (2009:loc. 143-145) as an intellectual summary formula of how people think, but also a Christian 'social imaginary' as it is embedded in the practices of Christian worship.

The church, and thus theological training, must declare to each generation 'what faith is' in a contextual relevant way (Goheen 2016:320). Goheen (2016) proposes that systematic theology can assist the church in equipping disciples to be faithful to their missional vocation, but challenges systematic theology to be more missional in its content:

mission interrupts the conversation in systematic theology with the words 'among the nations', asking if our theological work is equipping leaders to nurture a missional congregation and if the central missional theme of Scripture is shaping our theological formulations. (p. 321)

4. Church history: Bosch's Transforming Mission (1991) is appreciated as one of the important missiological tracts of our time, but it is also a history of the church and of various paradigms shaping and influencing church doctrine and life. But, warns Goheen, church history can easily become a history of the church as an institution and a report on theological controversies and doctrinal disagreements (Goheen 2016:322). 'If the church is missional by its nature', argues Goheen (2016:322), 'then church history will be concerned with how the gospel as it is articulated and embodied by the church encounters the various cultures of the world'. Church history that takes the missional nature of the church seriously will attend to the ways in which the story of the gospel has been told and received among the nations. The way in which the gospel is translated in each new cultural milieu forms a very important part of the history of missional encounters. This means that church history will need to engage issues of context and inculturation.

5. Congregational theology: Congregational theology refers to pastoral or practical theology. Osmer (2008:4) framed practical theology within the fourfold tasks: (1) the descriptive-empirical task, (2) the interpretive task, (3) the normative task, and (4) the descriptive-empirical task. Osmer (2008:195, 201) acknowledges the important task of the congregation to give witness to God's self-giving love, and to do so in contextually relevant ways. Goheen's (2016:324) approach emphasises the importance of vocation and the church as a community where various spiritual gifts build up the body for their calling in the world. Nel (2018) formulates the following critical departure point for Practical Theology:

Practical Theology is caught up in this deep conviction and confession: God is at work, actively involved in his world and so are we, the faith community and as human beings (even outside the faith community). (p. 7)

The goal is clearly to be orientated to the world and leaders nurture new life in Christ for the sake of the world. For Nel, the question is: 'How does a missional orientation of the church to the world shape the various dimensions of pastoral ministry in contrast to a maintenance of institutional-church vision?'

6. Ethics: Goheen does not discuss the place of ethics. Mashau (2012:6) mentions the importance of ethics and refers to 'missionary ethics'. Wright (2010:loc. 4020) understood the gospel as 'intrinsically verbal is just as intrinsically ethical'. He explains the mission of God's people as to be the community who live by the ethical standards of the ways of God. Ethics can be clustered with systematic theology, but the fact that mission ethics is the purpose of the election of God's people and the basis of mission, must be reflected in theological training.

7. Missional spirituality and formation: Theological education is about formation and equipping God's people to participate in God's mission. Spirituality serves the apostolicity and mission of the church. Doornenbal (2012:212) argues that missional spirituality is a spirituality that forms and feeds mission. One must, however, remember that a missional spirituality, and the missional life of a congregation, is not the result of technique, strategic planning or programmes. The formation of God's people is all about habits and practises (sometimes called disciplines). Practises are routinised (ritualised) actions shaping our lives in a certain direction (Roxburgh 2015:49), and helping Christian communities to enter more deeply into the biblical narratives. This implies a spirituality that aligns missional leaders to and nourishes a missional hermeneutic. A missional spirituality also brings balance where missional hermeneutic is reduced to the methodological analysis of texts. It is about hearing God's voice and calling to participate in his mission.

8. Mission and theology of religions: The Edinburgh 2010 meeting described the relation with and witness to people of other faiths as one of the most crucial missiological questions facing Christians (Balia & Kim 2010:34). The global context, expanding religious pluralism and the universal appeal of the Christian message necessitate a response by academic theology to these new parameters. This in itself invites broad theological discussion, but perhaps the point of view of the Administrative Board of the German Association for Mission Studies (2008) serves as an adequate summary:

Religious Studies is understood as belonging to Cultural Studies and Intercultural Theology/Mission Studies relies on this expertise in many working areas. In this respect there is an interest in Religious Studies being a strong, independent discipline of Cultural Studies. However, Mission Study Research itself always needs a high degree of competence in religious studies. (p. 106)

This underscores the importance of a theology of religions as part and parcel of theological education.

All of this, and much more, should shape theological education and preparation for ministry.

9. Conclusion: A missional hermeneutic, applied to and practised in theological education, can transform theological education to serve the contextual realities and demands of a VUCA world and the decolonial turn in Africa. It entails a clear focus on the central role of a missional hermeneutic, how it impacts on the understanding and theology of congregational praxis and the formation and equipping of gathered communities to be witnesses to Christ in all places and circumstances. This entails a missional curriculum that defines a centre that unifies the various disciplines - one that places mission and missiology at the heart of theological education.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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Nelus Niemandt

Received: 03 Feb. 2019
Accepted: 03 Apr. 2019
Published: 10 June 2019



1. Fresh Expressions South Africa (2018) states on its website: 'Missional theology is the backbone of FE', and 'Our PURPOSE: To join God's mission in the world to transform communities, through enabling the development of fresh expressions of church, alongside existing churches, in every place in Southern Africa'.
2. Church Innovations is dedicated to building partnerships for missional churches - see
3. Bosch (1982:18) observed that other theologians often regarded their missiological colleagues with aloofness, if not condescension.

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Determining moral leadership as argued from an evolutionary point of view - With reference to gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation



Chris Jones

Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa





This essay focuses on determining moral leadership, as theoretically debated from an evolutionary point of view in an attempt to reflect on how this kind of moral leadership can contribute, among others, in dealing with issues such as gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation. Although important, not one of the latter issues will be discussed. It is not the primary focus of the essay. But because we are aware of the extent of the challenges regarding these issues, they were specifically identified as examples for applying the moral guidelines developed and determined in this essay. This essay mainly argues that morality and moral leadership require analytical and critical evolutionary thinking and reflection that could contribute to making the world a more just and fair place in which to live. Moral leaders are created when people are constantly striving in an ongoing process of reasoning to become more humane, thereby allowing every person to flourish and to reach their full potential through biologically determined and justice-based moral reflection and action.

Keywords: Moral leadership; Evolutionary science; Biology; Moral codes; Moral sense; Ethical choices; Behaviour; Gender; Race.




Many people around the world are actively engaged in a struggle for a better society - politically, economically, ethnically, sexually and morally, to name but a few aspects. These so-called moral leaders may even risk their lives to achieve this goal. At times, these individuals may, however, become impatient towards the theoretical reasoning that surrounds these issues. There are certain presuppositions and assumptions that often inform people's decision-making and impact the effectiveness of moral leaders' actions. There is thus a constant need for critical examination and assessment of the implicit theory that informs people's actions. By exposing themselves to the ethical and moral assumptions and theories of others, people are compelled to evaluate their own ethical and moral views critically. Engaging in academic debate allows one the opportunity to challenge the presuppositions and moral-ethical assumptions of others.

The presuppositions of society are (partly) sustained by an academic foundation that needs to be constantly reviewed, debated and modified (Villa-Vicencio & De Gruchy 1994:ix-xi).

José Miguez Bonino (1983), pioneer of Latin American liberation theology, understands and shares the above-mentioned impatience. However, he is also convinced that we:

[U]nderestimate the theoretical task and turn our backs on the theory, only at considerable cost to ourselves and to the effectiveness of our actions. The cost in human life that we pay for simple pragmatism is too high. (p. 9)

Philip Selznick, former Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that when people engage in theoretical reasoning, they become part of what he calls the 'moral commonwealth' which forms the basis of ethical and moral behaviour in any age (Selznick 1994:n.p.).

This essay focuses on determining moral leadership, as theoretically debated from an evolutionary point of view in an attempt to reflect on how this kind of moral leadership can (possibly) contribute in dealing with issues such as gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation.

Morality requires analytical thinking and critical reflection that can (help) make the world a more just and fair place to live. This essay therefore shows that moral leaders are created when people are constantly striving in an ongoing process of reasoning to become more humane, thereby allowing every person to flourish and to reach their full potential through biologically determined and justice-based moral reflection and action.

According to Charles Villa-Vicencio and John de Gruchy, reflection on ethics (and morality) is never only for the sake of reflection. Action is necessary, but it must, in turn, give rise to further reflection and self-critique.

Practising ethics and morality 'involves participation in an action-reflection-action continuum' (Villa-Vicencio & De Gruchy 1994:xi).


Evolutionary science as a lens

Firstly, it is important to take cognisance of evolutionary science as defined by David Stamos, a philosopher of Science from York University, Toronto. This view (in line with certain important cultural codes as will be identified later in the essay) could serve as an important lens or window through which broader social realities such as gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation can be viewed and understood. Evolutionary science may furthermore help us to become more aware of injustices and harm done to people when, in the context in which they have been forced to live by society and even their church, they find that they cannot exist as authentic people. Evolutionary science in particular wants to show us who we are as human beings and how we should treat one another in light of this realisation.

This essay makes some suggestions as to how evolutionary science may shed some light on the important question of morality and moral leadership. To orientate ourselves, Darwinian evolution will serve as a point of departure. Even though one rightly could raise some points of critique especially in terms of gender (as will be done later in this article), one cannot deny the importance of evolutionary science. Daniel Dennet has argued that Darwinian evolution is a 'universal acid', corroding its way virtually through all areas of life (Stamos 2008:3).

In this regard, it is important to note that certain scholars (see Badcock 2000; Barkow 1992; Crawford & Krebs 1998; Pinker 2002; Wilson 1975) argue that the debate is not about nature versus nurture but rather nature-nurture versus nurture. It is not only a debate between two clear-cut models, namely an emphasis on evolutionary history on the one hand and cultural history on the other. Stamos argues that a full explanation for a given trait requires a genetic and ultimately evolutionary explanation (nature) and an environmental explanation (nurture) - in other words a nature-nurture approach (Stamos 2008:4).

We must be wary of efforts to play down the role of biology and play up the role of environment, namely culture and conditioning. Ultimately, this will lead to a view of human nature as plastic or mouldable, according to Stamos (2008:4). One should note that there are many so-called behaviourists who do not really recognise the role of genes in the behaviour of people.

What goes hand-in-hand with behaviourism, both ideologically and temporally, is cultural relativism. The anthropologist, Ruth Bennedict (1934:59), argues that 'mannerisms like the ways of showing anger, or joy, or grief or in major human drives like those of sex in fields such as that of religion or formal marriage arrangements' are tremendously variable and entirely culturally relative. Therefore, what is considered normal in one society may easily be considered abnormal in another. Thus, no culture, according to such a view, is 'right' and no culture is 'wrong' (Bennedict 1934:73).

It is important to note that the reluctance to talk about genes and human nature invariably involves the fear of biological determinism. The fact that genes influence human behaviour does not mean that they necessarily determine all human behaviour. However, evolutionary biology has to be taken seriously, because it can help us truly to understand the human condition and, in relation to this essay, to gain insight into the phenomenon of the nature and significance of moral choices, actions and leadership.

Although evolutionary explanations of human nature and human behaviour have been around since Darwin, they were neglected in academic disciplines outside of professional biology. Noam Chomsky (Stamos 2008:5), well-known American linguist, philosopher and cognitive scientist, opened the door (since the beginning of the 1950s) to the evolutionary models of human behaviour, namely through socio-biology and evolutionary psychology. Socio-biology, as explained by Stamos (2008), is:

[T]he application of evolutionary principles to help explain social behaviour in humans and other animals, while evolutionary psychology is the application of evolutionary principles to help explain psychological phenomena. These two bargaining fields have much in common and a lot of overlap. (p. 5)

Given that this essay is in line with the objective to partly reflect on gender, among others, one should be cognisant of the criticism that the science of evolutionary biology in itself is sexually biased and has a substantial history of male chauvinism. Therefore, many feminists reject much of the science of evolutionary biology because of what they sometimes call malestream epistemology (Stamos 2008:126), manufactured by men for men. Stamos (2008:126-127), however, says that although he is uncomfortable with what Darwin says about the differences between men and women, he seriously doubts that Darwin would have resisted modern evidence that goes against his conclusions regarding sex selection with respect to these differences between man and woman. According to Stamos (2008:127), Darwin was after all 'the pioneer in evolutionary psychology He was the first word, not the last, and he well knew it'.

Stamos also admits that things have changed in many ways with the advent of civilisation (Stamos 2008:131). He says that although we carry our evolutionary past in our genes or as Darwin (1871:405) has put it, 'the indelible stamp of our lowly origin', civilisation has increasingly changed the rules. Thus:

What was, no longer necessarily ought to be [W]ith civilization came the concept of justice, and a robust concept of justice demands that women be treated with respect, as equal beings alongside men. (p. 131)

Stamos (2008:131) further notes that 'justice makes its demands on science too, and there is no reason why science cannot be gradually purged of its harmful elements, of which male chauvinism is but one'. For this to happen, insights from modern feminism are vital and these should be corroborated by findings from the halls and laboratories of science. Although Susan Haack (2003:580-588) suggests a remedy of 'diversity within science', Kathleen Okruhlik (1998:205) calls for 'the inclusion of diverse standpoints'. Many feminist scientists motivated by the ideal of objective knowledge strive to sensitise men and create new terminology.1

On the contrary, evolutionary development and science do not discriminate in terms of ethnicity and sexual orientation. All human beings have the same origin. We are a single race. Different human races do not exist. Therefore, according to Stephen Gould (1977:232), we should not name human races. He argues that 'geographic variability, not race, is self-evident' (Gould 1977:232). We have to resist any attempt to reintroduce the concept of race, using ecology or using cladistics taxonomy.

Different sexual orientations are also not social constructs but natural human kinds - patterns emerging during embryological development. Discrimination against any LGBTIQ+ person (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and the + stands for all other) runs against evolutionary biology and must be rejected.

In the rest of this essay, certain insights from evolutionary science will be brought into conversation with moral leadership and particularly moral leadership in a context that seeks to change minds and hearts with respect to gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation. For this purpose, mention will be made of well-established models that reflect on the characteristics of moral leadership. In particular, this essay will reflect on the value of what is called the Four Key Drives theory or model. However, before turning to this model and its significance for cultivating moral leaders, some reflections on the difference between moral sense and moral codes are in order.


Moral sense versus moral codes

Darwin's distinction between moral sense or conscience on the one hand and moral codes or norms on the other is crucial to the issue at the heart of this essay, that is, the nature and significance of moral leadership in cultivating change. A point of debate between scientists and philosophers is whether moral sense is biologically determined or not. In these debates however, one often finds that people fail to make the distinction between moral sense and moral codes.

Morality is, according to many scientists, a human biological attribute - it is the predisposition to make moral judgements. In other words, without moral sense, which is biologically determined, it would not be possible to judge some actions as good and others as bad or evil. In contrast, some philosophers argue that morality is not biologically determined. Rather, it comes from cultural traditions or religion. In this case, however, they are actually thinking about moral codes - the sets of norms that determine which actions are judged to be good or bad. Francisco Ayala (2012:169) states: 'They point out that moral codes vary from culture to culture and, therefore, are not biologically predetermined'.

There were, however, philosophers throughout the centuries such as, among others, Aristotle, who believed that humans hold moral sense by nature, because a human is not only Homo sapiens, but also Homo moralis (Ayala 2012:169). Ayala compares this distinction between moral sense and moral codes with language where a similar distinction can also be made. He indicates that the capacity for symbolic creative language is determined by our biological nature, but the particular language we speak - for example, English or isiXhosa - is definitely not biologically determined.

Similarly, one could argue that the need for moral values - as biologically determined and influenced - does not (necessarily) tell us what the specific moral values in your life will be - in the same way that the capacity for language does not determine which specific language you will speak. According to Ayala, (2012:170) humans are moral or ethical beings by their biological nature. The ability to evaluate your behaviour as either right or wrong, moral or immoral is a consequence of our intellectual capacities that include self-awareness and abstract thinking. These intellectual capacities are products of the evolutionary process. On the contrary, the moral codes or norms according to which we evaluate particular actions as either morally good or morally bad are products of cultural, not biological, evolution. It is at this point that an explanation of the Four Key Drives theory could be helpful.


The Four Key Drives theory

Perhaps the most noteworthy deduction about human behaviour emerging from Charles Darwin's scientific studies published more than 150 years ago is the notion of the four innate, evolutionary determined and developed key drives. In his The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin affirms that moral sense or conscience is a necessary consequence of high intellectual abilities that we associate with modern human beings. An important point made by Darwin is that having moral sense does not in itself determine what the moral codes or norms in one's life would be. In fact, there is a definite distinction between moral sense and moral codes.

Humans have evolved to survive differently from other animals. We have endured as a species because we have learned to work in groups and rely on problem-solving skills rather than brute force, inborn physical capacities and instincts.

The late Harvard Business School professor Paul Lawrence notes that for a long time, Darwin's insights about human drives were largely ignored. He and Nitin Nohria in Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices (Lawrence 2010:n.p.) propose a theory of human behaviour based on 'renewed Darwinism' and four key drives that have been further developed by Marc Hauser in his book Moral Minds (2006).

These Four Key Drives are as follows:

· To acquire what we need for survival, conception and our offspring's survival. This drive far surpasses our drives to acquire food, water, warmth and a mate. We are driven to attain things that interest us, give us a sense of identity and meet our loved ones' needs.

· To defend ourselves and our offspring from threats. We protect our family and groups to which we belong, our ideas and beliefs, our sense of pride and hope, and our self-image.

· To bond and form long-term, mutually caring and trusting relationships with others.

· To comprehend - to learn, understand, create, innovate and make sense of the world and our place in it.

A central question in moral leadership would be how to align certain moral codes or norms with these four innate key drives. The reason for this is that all of us find ourselves in a specific human society and cultural context that markedly impacts our behaviour as well as our moral decision-making.

An important point in this regard made by Ayala (2012:174) is that the codes or 'norms of morality must be consistent with biological nature, because ethics can only exist in human individuals and in human societies'. However, before we get to this 'process' of aligning, certain conditions that are necessary for ethical choices and behaviour must first be highlighted.


Three necessary conditions for ethical choices and behaviour

Given that humans are moral beings by nature, their biological constitution determines the presence (in them) of three necessary conditions for ethical behaviour: (1) the ability to anticipate the consequences of one's own actions; (2) the ability to make value judgements and (3) the ability to choose between alternative courses of action.

These abilities exist, according to Ayala (2012:171-173), as a consequence of the eminent intellectual capacity of human beings. Thus, the ability to anticipate the consequences of one's own actions is the most fundamental of the three conditions required for ethical behaviour. Ayala (2012) explains this condition as follows:

Only if one can anticipate that pulling the trigger will shoot the bullet, which in turn will strike and kill my enemy, can the action of pulling the trigger be evaluated as nefarious. Pulling a trigger is not in itself a moral action, it becomes so by virtue of its relevant consequences. (p. 171)

Therefore, one's action has an ethical dimension the moment one (can) anticipate the consequences. This ability to establish the connection between pulling a trigger and its consequences requires the ability to anticipate the future and to form mental images of realities not present or not yet in existence (Ayala 2012:171).

The second condition regarding the existence of ethical behaviour is the ability to make value judgements; to perceive certain objects or deeds as more desirable than others. Ayala (2012) writes that:

[O]nly if I can see the death of my enemy as preferable to his survival can the action leading to his demise be thought of as moral. If the consequences of actions are neutral with respect to value, an action cannot be characterised as ethical. (p. 172)

However, in all cases, the ability to make value judgements depends on the capacity for abstraction that makes it possible to compare objects or actions with one another and to perceive some as more desirable than others. This seems to exist in humans alone.

The third condition necessary for ethical behaviour is the ability to choose between alternative courses of action. Pulling the trigger can be a moral action only if one has the option not to pull it, reasons Ayala. A necessary action beyond conscious control is not a moral action. It is furthermore a question of what role free will plays. One should note that there would be no ethical behaviour without free will and morality would be an illusion, according to Ayala. Ayala (2012) argues:

[F]ree will is dependent on the existence of a well-developed intelligence, which makes it possible to explore alternative courses of action and to choose one or another in view of the anticipated consequences. (p. 173)

This is, however, a complex issue. There are new developments in different scientific research fields indicating that our will is not as free as we have thought up till now.2


The origin of moral codes

As already indicated, moral sense is a biological attribute of Homo sapiens, because it is a necessary consequence of our high intelligence. Moral codes, on the contrary, are products of cultural evolution. According to Ayala (2012:174-175), moral codes, like any other cultural system, cannot survive for long if they run in outright contrast to our biology. Humans are bound to their biology.3

Furthermore, there is no necessary or logical connection between religious faith and moral codes, although there is usually a motivational or psychological connection. Religious beliefs explain why people accept a particular set of ethical codes or norms because they are motivated to do so by their religious convictions (Ayala 2012:175).

On the contrary, moral codes, those sets of norms that we use to judge behaviour, can differ from culture to culture and also change over time. These norms are influenced by religion and cultural traditions. For many people however, their religious background and belief system are truly the backbone of their ethical thinking. The Dalai Lama reminds us that ' religious belief is no guarantee of moral integrity' (Dalai Lama 2001:27). Further, 'Religion can help us establish basic ethical principles. Yet we can still talk about ethics and morality without having recourse to religion' (Dalai Lama 2001:28).

Moral codes as products of cultural evolution are a distinctive human mode of evolution that, according to Ayala, have surpassed the biological mode because they are faster than the biological mode and because they can be directed. Cultural heredity does not depend on biological inheritance - from parents to children. It is transmitted horizontally and without biological bounds. A cultural mutation, an invention like a laptop, cell phone or rock music, can be extended to millions of individuals in less than one generation (Ayala 2012:176). Therefore, cultural evolution is much faster than biological evolution and it is very attractive and powerful.

Right through the centuries, human societies have experimented with moral systems. Some such as the Ten Commandments have succeeded and spread widely through humankind although other moral systems exist in different human societies. Many moral systems of the past have become extinct because they were replaced or because the societies that held them died out (Ayala 2012:176).

The moral systems that currently exist in humankind are those that were favoured by cultural evolution. They were propagated within particular societies probably because individuals felt that they were beneficial at least to the extent that they promoted social stability and success. Legal and political systems as well as belief systems are themselves outcomes of cultural evolution (Ayala 2012:176).

Darwin, in the words of Ayala, makes two interesting points in this regard: (1) morality may contribute to the success of some tribes over others, and (2) certain standards of morality will tend to improve over human history because the higher the moral standards of a tribe, the more likely its success. The standards that would contribute to tribal success are patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, sympathy and morality. Ayala (2012) therefore argues that:

[T]he codes/norms of morality, as they exist in any particular human society or culture, are felt to be universal within that culture. Nonetheless, like other elements of culture, they are continuously evolving, often within a single generation. (p. 178)

They are not set or fixed.

Thus, the legal and political systems that govern human societies as well as belief systems held by religion are themselves outcomes of cultural evolution as eventuated throughout human history, particularly over the last few millennia (Ayala 2012:178).


Moral codes to be aligned with our biology

As indicated above, moral codes, like any other cultural system, cannot survive for long if they run contrary to our biology. The question now would be: what kinds of codes (and behaviour) fulfil these four drives in the brains of others without ignoring them in one's own mind and would produce change in oneself and cultivate change in other people? Furthermore, what would these codes (norms) of engagement look like to realise these four innate drives? Thus, these norms should be completely consistent with the innate drives otherwise they would not stand the test of time or survive for too long. In particular, what would be the consequences of this kind of aligning with regard to gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation?

With respect to the first innate drive (acquire), the other's capacity to gain the necessary resources must be enhanced - not only one's own. Everyone must be given his or her due in an honest way, and it should be promoted regardless of resentment and anger. This requires restraint and self-sacrifice, simplicity and contentment. A sense of identity must be given to people and their needs must be met as far as possible by actively helping them to prosper and flourish, and by giving them the chance to live a good life.

To 'bond' (the second innate drive), trust, honesty, integrity and the enhancement and building of peace are needed. Forming trustful relationships and interaction with other people is of immeasurable value. British contemporary historian Anthony Seldon (2009) asserts that:

[W]e believe that trust is innate, and that we flourish in a trusting world. Performing trustful acts makes us feel happy: there is a natural compulsion to give and receive trust, and to be honest. (p. 25)

To 'comprehend' (third innate drive), knowledge is needed including indigenous knowledge. Josh Kaufmann (2011:n.p.) asserts that we must 'explore new areas of life, practice new skills, and satisfy curiosity'. We must remain teachable, creative and innovative to make sense of the world and our place in it.

According to Stamos, specialisation within any field is extremely important, but if one truly wants to know how the world works, whether the human world or the world of nature, then there is little choice but to welcome interdisciplinary studies with an open mind. If one is genuinely imbued with a spirit of inquiry and a thirst for knowledge, one has to awaken people to other possibilities (Stamos 2008:9-10). Although rationality plays an important role in this regard, information is also conveyed through storytelling, narratives and different (intersectional) encounters with people. Stories - also as experienced and told by children - are powerful and can therefore move people from their comfort zones. Storytelling can change dominant forces. It can be meaningful, purposeful and carry diverse opinions. However, dominant stories can also create boundaries and smother other needed information. The dominant story or stories are not the only stories. There are others that should also be heard for diverse and maximum insights.

To 'defend' (the fourth innate drive), acts of justice and courage are needed. The other, their loved ones and property, identity, ideas, sense of pride, hope and self-image should be protected. These include vulnerable children exposed to the sometimes destructive plans and decisions of adults. Allan Boesak, South African theologian and human rights activist, writes grippingly about the youth of the 'Injustice Must Fall' movement in South Africa and the youth of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. Despite the ongoing racism and systemic oppression still felt by their generation after the anti-apartheid struggle and the civil rights struggle, they do not become cynical. They march and fight with courage for justice. 'Those marches ', Boesak writes, 'are stubbornly, liberatingly inclusive: they are marches for social, racial, gender, and sexual justice. They are recognizing, and joyously affirming, their strength in the righteousness of their rebellion' (Boesak 2017:166).

Lawrence (2010:n.p.) shows that when the above-mentioned four drives, in other words, are expressed as nouns rather than verbs, they yield four core values or norms: prosperity (resources), peace/trust (bond), knowledge (comprehend) and justice (defend).

Good moral leaders hold these Four Key Drives in dynamic balance, says Lawrence (2010:n.p.). Weighing and balancing them all the time, especially when there is conflict. Our brain can be considered a flexible, problem-solving mechanism capable of bringing certain codes in line with our innate, biological drives.

Where one succeeds in doing this one displays good moral leadership. Such leaders may be said to possess wisdom. Unfortunately, people are also capable of (too) much bad, misguided and even evil leadership - think of Hitler and his Nazi doctrines of racial supremacy and inferiority as well as Mr Robert Mugabe, a Zimbabwean politician and revolutionary who served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017. He will be remembered for statements such as that the only white man you can trust is a dead white man, and that his party should continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, their real enemy.

I believe in an integrated theory of human behaviour. A theory of leadership that is not only testable, but that will also help us hopefully to do a better job of predicting certain events and outcomes. Where our moral codes are aligned and consistent with our biological nature, realistic sustainable non-discriminatory change can be created. One of my expectations in this regard is that fears and misconceptions among people regarding, among others, gender, race, poverty and sexual orientation will be overcome in this manner; that people will be surprised in strange ways; that this model will help people to imagine across boundaries and cultivate an inner eye regarding the pain, brokenness and marginalisation of others to bring hope and show the world a new way of being human.



These four innate key drives, determined biologically, in concurrence with the above-mentioned engaging and inclusive codes (and behaviour) to realise, strengthen and fulfil these drives in the lives of people, ought to lie in the heart of moral leadership. This is the only way in which good ethical behaviour will be enhanced and ensured.

According to Warren Bennis, '[o]ur understanding of leadership can be no better than our understanding of what makes humans, all humans, tick - what are the ultimate motivators of our behaviour' ( If one enhances someone's capacity to (1) acquire the necessary resources to prosper and flourish; (2) bond effectively, because you embrace, emphasise, include, trust, respect, honour and recognise the other person for who he or she is; (3) comprehend with knowledge not only as conveyed on rational level, but also through storytelling, narratives and different encounters, when well-researched truths, useful experience and tested information and insights are shared; and (4) defend one another because you believe in and act according to justice without favour, fear or prejudice, people's perceptions and behaviour towards women (and men), people who belong to another race, the poor and LGBTIQ+ people can be changed. Moral change and revolutions, in the words of Kwame Appiah (2010:xi-xix) from the New York University, still do take place.

I would predict that those who have found ways to satisfy all four drives (at least over time) will feel more fulfilled, be more successful and be better moral leaders than those who have focused on some to the exclusion of others (

When working with these issues, it can be very useful, as reasoned above, to distinguish between the concepts of moral conscience and moral norms. It helps us to understand that moral norms change and can also differ between cultures and religions. The evolutionary lens helps us to be on the lookout for universal norms, which relate to all people over all generations and cultures.

Total objectivity is not possible for anyone. It seems important to be reminded that even when we are using the basic drives approach, we are, to a certain extent, locked into our own cultural and religious framework. We tend to interpret and translate the basic drives in terms of our own understanding of the world. This does not mean that when we reflect on the moral norms of our time and situation, our reflections are without any value. Instead, the challenge is to keep on reflecting on these matters - not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit for all of humankind including for those who come after us.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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Chris Jones

Received: 03 Aug. 2018
Accepted: 15 Jan. 2019
Published: 27 June 2019



1. Another interesting perspective in this regard is found in an article by anthropologist Emily Martin in 1991. She is 'intrigued by the possibility that culture shape how biological scientists describe what they discover about the natural world. If this were so, we would be learning about more than the natural world in high school biology class; we would be learning about cultural beliefs and practices as if they were part of nature'. In the course of her research she realised 'that the picture of egg and sperm drawn in popular as well as scientific accounts of reproductive biology relies on stereo types central to our cultural definitions of male and female. The stereo type imply not only that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counter parts but also that women are less worthy than men'. Part of her goal in writing this article was 'to shine a bright light on the gender stereo types hidden within the scientific language of biology'. Exposed in such a light, she hopes they will lose much of their power to harm us. Read more on this in Martin (1991).
2. For more information see Bode 2014, Lavazza 2016, Libet et al. 1983, Soon et al. 2008.
3. For further information in this regard, see Merleau-Ponty (2004).

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Fearing the stranger? Homiletical explorations in a fear-filled world



Ian A. Nell

Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa





The large number of xenophobic attacks that broke out in different places in South Africa during 2008 was still continuing unabated 10 years later. We were stressed to come to terms with the reality that this occurred in a country that is globally considered to be an example of reconciliation. It is clear that we were confronted by the politics of fear, which were manifested in xenophobia and all the other -isms. In this article, the primary causes of these xenophobic outbreaks were scrutinised and placed within the wider framework of a culture of fear. The central research question is: Why are we still struggling with this phenomenon more than a decade after it first appeared on South African soil? In-depth analysis will be performed on what is lying behind the culture of fear underlying these acts of violence. After exploring some of the factors related to a culture of fear by making use of a sociological frame, the author moved on to answer a second question: How do we, as preachers, researchers and practical theologians, respond in a theological way to the challenges posed by a xenophobic culture in our preaching activities? Finally, the impact of violence and fear on the practice of preaching within a Christian context was discussed.

Keywords: Xenophobia; Practical theology; Homiletics; Culture of fear; Politics of fear.




On Madiba's 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads, a moment in time in which two very different visions of humanity's future compete for the hearts and minds of citizens around the world. Two different stories, two different narratives, about who we are and who we should be.

Barack Obama

Speech commemorating Mandela's legacy, 17 July 2018 (Obama 2018:1)

The world celebrated the legacy and memory of one of Africa's most illustrious leaders, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, on 18 July 2018, just 2 weeks ago. The last few months have been special because it is the centenary celebration of his birth. His leadership was significant in reprioritising humanity and dignity by accentuating reconciliation and forgiveness, respect for all, the protection of human rights and equal opportunity (Edwards & Juliet 2017:2). Thabo Leshilo asked Cheryl Hendricks and Keith Gottschalk to reflect on Barack Obama's speech1 commemorating Mandela's legacy by asking: What are the three most important things to take away from the speech?

Cheryl Hendricks: His key points were firstly that we are at a crossroads. What we have built and achieved over the last 100 years is being contested by those who espouse the politics of fear and resentment, fueled by the contradictions of globalization, failures of governance and political elites that have assumed a monopoly of power. This is manifested in xenophobia, terrorism, chauvinism, narrow nationalism, gender inequality, economic greed and authoritarianism. It's in direct opposition to the values, ideals and principles embodied by Madiba and the many who fought for democracy and freedom. It is uncertain which one will win, but we need to resist the cynicism, the divisions, hatred, corruption and be guided by universal principals, love, and servant collective leadership. Gottschalk: We have to address the fears of those who feel left out or left behind by globalization. We must work harder and smarter to realize Madiba's vision for freedom. (Hendricks & Gottschalk 2018:1)

From Obama's speech it is very clear that we are confronted by the politics of fear, which are manifested in xenophobia and all the other -isms he refers to. Before we start reflecting on a culture of fear and xenophobia, I think it might be worthwhile to attempt to define fear.


On defining fear

Martha Nussbaum recently (2018) published a volume on fear with the title The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis. Christopher Borelli (2018:1) from the Chicago Tribune asked her in an interview on her book: 'What is fear?' She answered as follows:

Fear is the sense that there are things that are bad for you and your well-being, looming over you, and you are not fully in control of warding them off. That is how Aristotle defines fear and what everyone agrees on. Fear can also be archaic and infantile. We have fear as soon as we are born, we are born into a state of physical helplessness. Humans can't do anything to get what they want for quite a long time. Unlike horses we can't even stand. So we are in a state of constant fear - 'Will I ever have my hunger assuaged?' It leaves a mark. Then we learn we will die. We learn early on, and fear never goes away, we are all powerless over it. So fear can be easily hijacked and grow out of control - arguably more so than other emotions, I would argue.

She further discusses aspects of fear and shows how often fear comes with a narrow self-interest that can include things such as one's family, city or country. She points out that fear often leads to anger and that one can then be under the wrong impression that one is in charge of one's fear. Fear also brings other emotions such as jealousy and despair to the surface, which means we do not want other people to enjoy the good things in life. Having some understanding of fear, we can now move on to a culture of fear.


A culture of fear

The first thing one realises when thinking and reflecting on the xenophobia that President Obama spoke about is that it is sustained by a culture and politics of fear and is not a phenomenon restricted to South Africa. We find a culture of fear all over the globe and it is normally associated with the workplace, politics and the impact of the media and publications (Higgs 2005:1). In 2013, the French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, who lives in Algiers and Berlin, titled his work The Culture of Fear: An Invention of Evil, and it was shown as part of Attia's major exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia (Fahd 2017).

He was born in France in 1970 and grew up travelling between his ancestral home of Algeria and his birthplace in the suburbs of Paris. In the catalogue interview with the exhibition's curator, Attia tells of being part of two cultures, citing this experience as the basis of his practice. The Culture of Fear is a kind of library, displaying images and illustrations from 19th, 20th and 21st century books, newspapers and magazines. These are hung from hardware variety steel shelves usually synonymous with household garages. In Attia's creation the shelves are interlocked and transformed into dangerously high towers, evoking New York's Twin Towers. (p. 1)

One realises that a primary source for this fear relates to the horror of the 9/11 event in the USA, but Attia's work prompts one 'to distinguish between the perpetrators' acts, the images of this terror then produced and disseminated en masse, and the effect the images have in creating dangerously divisive stereotypes' (Fahd 2017:3). He writes that today's culture of fear did not start with the 9/11 events, but was with us all along and is shaped by cultural suppositions about human vulnerability. In a recent article, Robinson (2018:3) writes about white American Protestant evangelicals, who voted for Trump because '[t]hey feared that immigration was destroying America's European heritage, and that as white Protestantism waned, democracy itself would collapse'.


Structure of the argument

This article also concentrates on fear, but in this case on the 'fear of the stranger', particularly from a South African point of view. I will start with some general comments on the phenomenon of xenophobia within the context of fear and violence in South Africa, trying to answer the question: Why are we still struggling with this phenomenon more than a decade after it first appeared on South African soil? I will be looking at what is lying behind the culture of fear underlying these acts of violence. After exploring some of the factors related to a culture of fear by making use of a sociological frame, I want to move on and try to answer a second question: How do we, as preachers, researchers and practical theologians, respond in a theological way to the challenges posed by a xenophobic culture in our preaching activities?

In his reflection on xenophobic violence, Chris Kenyon (2008) came to the conclusion that 'we are a sick society':

If we judge South African society by this measure, the brutal beatings, burnings and displacements of our emigrant communities over the past few weeks must suggest that we are still a sick society. Responsibility for the wave of xenophobia sweeping across South Africa has been laid at the feet of various factors and actors: criminal groups, our present and past governments for lack of service delivery, and institutions responsible for law and order. (p. 531)

While there might be considerable truth in some of these perspectives, it is important that in our reaction as practical theologians we look for wider reasons. This raises many questions, such as: What is behind all of this? What are we grappling with here? What are the reasons? To be honest, we do not know yet. What we do know, is that this is a complex phenomenon with various possible descriptions. But that does not remove our accountability to search for some deep causes. The following is an effort to trace some of these reasons.


Mapping the pattern of a xenophobic culture

Many motives for this life-threatening form of social exclusion have been offered. Explanations for xenophobic prejudice often focus on three types of factors (Crush & Pendelton 2007):

(a) interactive factors related to the amount of exposure inhabitants have to strangers, (b) cultural factors, which include identity and nationalism, and (c) material or economic factors related to employment opportunities, available resources, and so forth. (p. 75)

A useful starting point in illuminating the causes of this endemic xenophobia map out the pattern of xenophobia. With this in mind, I want to use an adapted version of the work of Van der Ven (1993)2 in distinguishing between factors relating to identity, integration, politics and economics that can help us in identifying a pattern of some of the complexities involved in a xenophobic culture.

Factors related to identity

The first factor is identity and the word 'latency' is used as descriptor to show that norms, values and convictions are lying latent under the surface of society until a crisis breaks out or a conflict is experienced (Van der Ven 1993:69). It is then that the norms, values and convictions awake and start to play an important role. To begin with, it is difficult to understand the current crisis with xenophobia without carefully accounting for the cultural-historical past of our country; in other words, for the issues involving the identity and culture of our country's various population groups (Terblanche 2002:144).

Here we think about South Africa's colonial past, which is long not over yet. British colonialisation formed the basis for further political and economic development of the Cape from 1806 onwards. Western Europe exported modernity to Africa and other regions through colonisation during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Included in these endeavours was the idea of the nation-state with one main language, a national education system, a developed economy and modern technology (Giliomee 2003:15). This led to economic impoverishment, inhuman treatment and cultural humiliation of South Africa's indigenous communities. Home-grown cultural norms were damaged to such a degree that it led to the biggest colonial heritage, namely the silent recognition of South Africa's imported colonial modernity as norm by people who were dishonoured by the system.

This silent recognition of modernism in its colonial cloak is characteristic of the African continent (Kobia, 2003:10). In South Africa, we find this in the activities of the two strongest indigenous political movements after they came into power, namely the Afrikaner and African nationalism. Both movements were of the opinion that liberation lay in taking the state over from the colonialists. This thought gained such momentum that both groups were prepared to turn to violence for pursuing that cause. What happened in the process was that the needed state and economic administration skills were not established and that the real challenge was only recognised later, namely how to reconcile imported colonial modernity with local needs.

A result of the aforementioned was that the new elite started to use the state as means of patronage for their ethnic supporters. By taking this route, the previous colonial elite was simply substituted as conduit to local wealth, but with very few changes in the financial policy and the lives of the majority of residents. This was the case with both the African National Congress and the National Party.

Without going into unnecessary detail, the results are very clear in South Africa today. Through affirmative action and black economic empowerment, a small but strong middle class has been developed. Unfortunately, in the lives of 60% of the poor people in our country very little changed, and most live in informal settlements and squatter camps (Kruidenier 2017:3). This state of affairs together with poor service delivery, ongoing poverty and a shaky infrastructure, gives one some understanding of the xenophobic attacks and associated violence. Black South Africans who are desperate and have rarely disclosed xenophobic behaviour in the past but who were left behind by the government turned on foreigners in their frustration and accused them of stealing their homes and jobs. It is very clear that we are dealing here with the actions of distressed victims seeking recognition by resorting to violence and exercising it on the weaker party (Edwards & Juliet 2017:4).

Factors related to integration

The second factor is integration and this relates to the binding strength and cohesion in society. What are the things that bind people or hold them apart and what is the strength of the underlying social relations? How do people handle conflict and how is it resolved? What is the role of leaders in all of this? (Van der Ven 1993:69). It is well known that a spiral of violence has entrenched itself over a long period in our country. Theories underpinning this spiral of violence all start by pointing to the presence of 'institutional' or 'structural violence'. It is in other words about the radical disparities concerning opportunities, resources and privileges in society, kept together by different forms of power. One main example of this kind of violence is of course the ideology of apartheid (Smit 2007:5).

It is also further evident that this kind of violence is particularly widespread in deprived communities where people who are seen as strangers are attacked (Kenyon 2008:531). In Southern Africa, this 'baseline rate of violent crime' is one of the highest in the world (Watkins 2007:6). Swart (2008:313) states: 'There is a direct connection between poverty and the problems of violence, criminality and other social ills that are plaguing this society'. This all leads to different kinds of tension and works against processes that aim to promote social cohesion.

Factors related to politics

The third factor is politics and it relates to the concept of 'goal attainment', referring to that which one is striving for or what one wants to achieve in life. In other words, it is about the different actions one plans in reaching one's goals (Van der Ven 1993:69). We know that violent attacks on foreigners in South Africa did not occur out of the blue. They were the result of violent crime which, according to the Human Development Report 2016, was among the highest in the world (Jahan 2016:18). It was a planned and purposeful action by a number of people, including politicians and state officials.

According to Neocosmos (2008:587), xenophobia must be understood as a political discourse that is the result of a politics of fear that is widespread in both society and state. According to him, this politics of fear has at least three major components: 'a state discourse of xenophobia, a discourse of South Africa exceptionalism and a conception of citizenship founded exclusively on indigeneity' (Neocosmos 2006:587). He discusses each one of these factors in detail and I will try to summarise his argument briefly.

Concerning 'a state discourse of xenophobia', we find that government departments and especially the police have been reinforcing messages that we are being invaded by illegal immigrants who are a personal threat and a threat to national stability and the very fabric of our society. Already back in 1998, the Human Rights Watch (1998) concluded that:

in general, South Africa's public culture has become increasingly xenophobic, and politicians often make unsubstantiated and inflammatory statements that the 'deluge' of migrants is responsible for the current crime wave, rising unemployment and even the spread of diseases. (p. 4)

In this regard the press also played a huge part in contributing to a climate of fear of migrants through numerous news reports warning people that the migrants are flooding into the country to steal the jobs of the locals.

On the topic of 'a discourse of exceptionalism', Neocosmos (2008:590-591) writes that there is the idea that the country 'is not really in Africa and that its intellectual and cultural frame of reference is in the USA and Europe'. This attitude often stems from the idea that Africa is understood as the place of 'the other' and that what is happening in the rest of Africa (in terms of genocide and wars) could not possibly happen here. If you add to this the view that South Africa must be extraordinary as it is coveted by the rest of the world for having succeeded in running a successful reconciliation process, one can see what is meant by the discourse of exceptionalism.

Concerning 'the discourse of indigeneity', Neocosmos (2008:591-592) reflects on a letter that was written to the Mail & Guardian in which the author argued that black economic empowerment should be restricted to the indigenous, meaning that Indians and brown people should be excluded, being somehow less indigenous. It is also a common way in which many people argue in public while historically, the only truly indigenous people would be the San, with all the other groups migrating from the North.

It is clear from the above that xenophobia can be seen as a political discourse, but then one that has not been contested successfully and has been allowed to become hegemonic. According to Gous (2018:10), this is happening in a time of growing globalisation where we find a return to nationalism, creating a certain paradox in the sense that on the one hand, one finds more openness over boundaries, while on the other hand, one finds growing xenophobia and violence against immigrants.

Factors related to economics

The fourth factor is economics and the word 'adaptation' is used to describe the material needs that are necessary for survival. One needs financial provisions to adapt to changing circumstances (Van der Ven 1993:70). According to Wilkinson (2005:15), one of the main factors playing a role in xenophobic attacks is economic inequalities. He believes that greater income inequality leads to the escalation of social distance between the different income groups and that it also renders it difficult to develop a common and shared identity.

Vast differences in material wealth could also be seen as a difference in status as well as a difference in people's inherent worth. Where one finds communities where one's self-worth is determined by one's material wealth, it will happen that people finding themselves at the bottom end of the social hierarchy end up with low self-esteem and frustration because of exclusion from the different means of making a living. In this regard, it is normally young adult men who are prone to react on the slightest provocation. You also find with every outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa the refrain 'the kwerekwere are stealing our jobs', where kwerekwere can be translated as 'foreigners' (Wilkinson 2015:1).

Looking at the four factors, one finds a multi-layered and complex picture of the prevalence of xenophobia among South Africans, which brings us to the next question: How do we preach in a xenophobic culture?


Preaching in a xenophobic culture

In the introductory note on the conference on the website of Societas Homiletica, Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm asks a number of questions related to the conference theme. The last question she asks is: 'How do we describe and develop homiletical spaces in which fear needs to be expressed?' (Societas Homiletica 2018:1). It is to this question that I want to respond in the second part of my own homiletical exploration. I want to propose that one way to approach an answer to this challenge is by putting the concept of reconciliation in the middle of the homiletical space. In concentrating on reconciliation, I want to open up at least three ways in which we can speak and preach about reconciliation within a xenophobic culture.

But before we get to that, first something about the importance of reconciliation. The South African Reconciliation Barometer Survey3 is a nationally representative public opinion poll conducted annually by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). The barometer focuses on progress in reconciliation in South Africa. Key issues addressed in the survey include human security, political culture, political relationships, dialogue, historical confrontation and race relations. The barometer aims to gather how these aspects impact reconciliation in South Africa. It is a joint project of the Khayabus opinion poll of Ipsos-Markinor and the IJR, which collects data through interviews with a nationwide representative sample of 3487 South Africans. There is a presumption that 95% of the data is accurate and a possible deviation of 1.7% is calculated. The 2017 barometer indicated the following (Potgieter 2017):

· Many unresolved legacies of the apartheid and colonial eras remain. They continue to this day to present an obstacle in the way of achieving a truly fair and equitable society. As such, these legacies have to be confronted head-on and acknowledged.

· Despite some decline in the acknowledgement of the injustices of apartheid, a significant majority is still of the view that the apartheid system could be categorised as a crime against humanity.

· A majority of South Africans, furthermore, agree that the legacies of apartheid continue to persist to the present day, although differences between race groups are evident in this regard. Combined with perceptions of political and economic power and related fears born out of perceptions in this regard, unaddressed legacies remain divisive and limiting to reconciliation.

· Most South Africans feel that reconciliation is still needed, and that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided a good foundation for reconciliation in the country. However, just over half of the population feel that progress in terms of reconciliation has been made, while less than half of South Africans report having experienced reconciliation themselves. (pp. 7-8)

With these indicators in mind, I want to propose three ways in which preaching in a xenophobic context can benefit, namely through focusing on the logos, the pathos and the ethos of reconciliation.

The logos of reconciliation - The triune God

With the logos of reconciliation, I have in mind what we believe and why it ought to make sense for Christian believers in a homiletic context that is challenged by xenophobia. These include issues such as the following: What kind of theological discourse do we need in a country where there is so much distrust and misunderstanding? What vision and biblical images do we need to enter into dialogue about God, creation and humanity at this moment? How can a culture of fear be transformed into a culture of self-respect and human dignity? In other words, what would be the good news for the people of South Africa in a context of xenophobia?

The choice of reconciliation in this regard is not without certain risks. Hay (1998) wrote:

Religious groups, churches, political groups and others found it a convenient word on which to hang their ideological clothing. The apartheid regime blithely used talk of reconciliation to maintain the status quo. On the other side, those in the struggle spoke about no reconciliation without justice. (p. 13)

Nevertheless, I agree with Rohr and Morell's view on reconciliation as a comprehensive concept for healing processes at different levels, including the entire cosmos and communities, and also on the personal level (2016:131-136). For the Christian tradition, reconciliation is the result of God's radical presence in the world through his Son and in the Spirit. In this regard, it serves as opposition to any form of exclusion, power abuse and alienation. Reconciliation seen in this way has its origin in God and finds its ultimate and final point of reference in the power of God's healing love and compassion with humankind. In one sense, one could say that it is the heart of the Christian faith community's identity, and we constantly need to be reminded of this through the act of preaching.

A metaphor often used in expressing the New Testament's alternative vision of reconciliation is the understanding of God as a living triune God. Volf (2010) uses the suffering of Christ to explain something about the internal dialogue within the Trinity and this eventually becomes the most decisive model for reconciliation. The cross, says Volf (2010:34), is 'giving up of God's self in order not to give up on humanity'. He develops his theology of embrace in terms of these two dimensions of the cross: the self-confessed love of Christ that overcomes human hostility and the creation of space in Godself to accept alienated humanity.

In light of the latter, we can say that the triune God is fully open and that there is equal power between God, Jesus and the Spirit while making in themselves space for the other. This necessarily leads to a dynamic understanding of our own identity that enables mutual non-hierarchical relationships and creates community - a community of mutual forgiveness and liberation, integrity and integration, wholeness and interdependence (Rohr & Morrell 2016). Hereby we find a radical reinterpretation of power in the light of God's healing love and compassion, in God's impartiality and in his ability to reconcile and restore the dignity of life.

The pathos of reconciliation - The liturgy

In the logos of reconciliation, I propose an alternative vision for reconciliation by concentrating on the Trinitarian self-giving of God embodied in Christ's suffering on the cross in order for us to live a reconciled life full of dignity. The questions are now: How does this alternative vision work in practice? What in our context can give a counter-experience to xenophobia and what impulses are powerful enough to move people to other insights?

In his book Desiring the Kingdom (2009), James Smith puts forward one alternative vision in very practical terms that can help create a counter-intuitive experience, helping us to move to new insights regarding a reconciled life. Smith explains passionately and in everyday language how worship contributes to the formation of our lives and how both can also be associated with education. He explains how the embodiment of God's love through Christ's suffering, which worship offers us, is central to a life of reconciliation. Therefore, our teaching and learning need to pay close attention to the ordering of our love, and by implication, also of our desires.

He also develops a new vision for higher education focusing on the fundamental desires of the heart. He describes very well how liturgies in our contemporary society are being worked out and performed in our churches, while the same underlying principles are also at work in sports arenas, shopping malls and even the world of work. He continues and re-imagines the Christian university not only as a place where students are busy with the formation of their thinking but also as a place where they ought to be taught to love the world in the right way. It stands in stark contrast to all our fears because we know from our tradition that love overcomes fear. The ordering of our love, therefore, starts with the order of the liturgy, and from there it flows into the ordering of our lives.

The ethos of reconciliation - Integrity as liberating and healing ethos

With the ethos of reconciliation we come to understand the acting individual who has to perform and take the lead, who has to convey the message of reconciliation with integrity and character on the basis of the correct ordering of his or her loves and desires. Rather than trying to provide a catalogue of virtues, I thought it best rather to return to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and to try to determine what made him such a remarkable leader and advocate for reconciliation. Hendricks (2018) summarises Mandela's leadership as follows:

Mandela was a humble, visionary leader of international stature seeking to bridge the divides between the North and the South to promote a common humanity, to reinvigorate multilateralism, to fight inequality and provide a moral compass for the world. His ideas about attaining peace in Africa through negotiations and mediation and creating more inclusive societies is one that still shapes conflict management on the continent. In South Africa his contribution remains his vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic society that eschewed tribalism and patronage politics, and that promoted collective and servant leadership. He was a unifier in a deeply racially divided society. (p. 1)

In this context, it is not surprising that young people from across the continent of Africa are taking seriously the challenges Mandela posed for the next generation. In a recent article in The Conversation under the title 'How young activists are keeping Mandela's legacy alive across Africa', Alan Hirsch (2018) tells us that some of these young people are the leaders of powerful civil and political organisations and campaigns.

According to Hirsch, one such example is a person named Sampson Itodo, who succeeded in organising a campaign that would benefit young Nigerians in their pursuit of political positions. Itodo is one of a number of innovative, efficient young Africans who know Mandela's actions spoke louder than his words. For Itodo it became clear that Mandela was not at all interested in building some heroic cult around himself and that he also left explicit orders that he should not be treated as a half-god and that no statues should be erected for him. Of course, it has been ignored and today, more than 10 larger-than-life-sized statues of Mandela are found in some of the major cities in South Africa, not to mention all the statues of him around the rest of the globe.

To return to Itodo's story (Hirsch 2018):

On May 31 this year, Sampson's bill was passed overwhelmingly in the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives. President Muhammadu Buhari signed it into law. Any Nigerian from the age of 35 can now run for President, and from 25 years for the House or State Assembly. (p. 3)

Itodo, however, did not drive the process on his own. He did it through hard work and by strategically mobilising and organising young people for 2 years - young people for whom representation was important and who wanted to have a voice in the political system, which many believed has failed. For someone like Itodo and many other young people on the African continent, Mandela's legacy and his belief in the power of young people's activities inspire them and keep them going.



I want to conclude by returning to Obama's speech where he in a very succinct way and almost in the form of a sermon points a way forward by keeping the tension between hope and fear (Obama 2018).

We have a better story to tell. But to say that our vision for the future is better is not to say it will inevitably win. Because history also shows the power for fear. History shows the lasting hold of greed and the desire to dominate others in the minds of men. Especially men. History shows how easily people can be convinced to turn on those who look different, or worship God in a different way. So if we're truly to continue Madiba's long walk towards freedom, we're going to have to work harder and we're going to have to be smarter I mean, it shows a poverty of ambition to just want to take more and more, instead of saying, 'Wow, I've got so much. Who can I help? How can I give more and more and more?' That's ambition. That's impact. That's influence. What an amazing gift to help people, not just yourself. And that's what we need right now, we don't just need one leader, we don't just need one inspiration, what we badly need right now is a collective spirit. (p. 1)

And the congregation respond 'Amen'.



Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.


Funding for this study was provided by the National Research Foundation.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.



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Gous, A., 2018, 'Ons het nie nog 'n vader nodig [We do not need another father]', Beeld, 14 February, p. 10.         [ Links ]

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Kobia, S., 2003, The courage to hope: The roots for a new vision and the calling of the church in Africa, WCC Publications, Geneva.         [ Links ]

Kruidenier, R., 2017, 'Personal encounters with children in an informal settlement: Exploring spirituality', Verbum et Ecclesia 38(1), a1632.        [ Links ]

Neocosmos, M., 2008, 'The politics of fear and the fear of politics: Reflections on xenophobic violence in South Africa', Journal of Asian and African Studies 43(6), 586-594.        [ Links ]

Nussbaum, M., 2018, The monarchy of fear: A philosopher looks at our political crisis, Oxford University Press, Oxford.         [ Links ]

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Parsons, T., 1975, 'The present status of "structural-functional" theory in sociology', in Coser, L.A. Social systems and the evolution of action theory, pp. 67-84, The Free Press, New York.         [ Links ]

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Ian Nell

Received: 04 Sept. 2018
Accepted: 17 Feb. 2019
Published: 23 July 2019



1. The title of the address by President Barack Obama was Renewing the Mandela legacy and promoting active citizenship in a changing world.
2. Van der Ven is seen as one of the most influential practical theologians of our time. He is recognised as one of the persons who contributed to the emancipation of practical theology as a discipline in its own right. In his 1993 publication (Van der Ven 1993), he used the work of the sociologist Talcot Parsons (1975, 1979) to develop an ecclesiological framework. By making use of this framework he tried to come to a deeper understanding of the underlying factors at work in faith communities as organisations, concentrating on aspects such as identity, integration, politics and economics.
3. The South African Reconciliation Barometer Survey is a public opinion survey conducted by the IJR since 2003. It is the only survey dedicated to critical measurement of reconciliation in South Africa, and is the largest longitudinal data source of its kind globally.

^rND^sEdwards^nG.^rND^sPeruma^nJ.^rND^sHendricks^nC.^rND^sGottschalk^nK.^rND^sHirsch^nA.^rND^sKenyon^nC.^rND^sKruidenier^nR.^rND^sNeocosmos^nM.^rND^sParsons^nT.^rND^sParsons^nT.^rND^sRobinson^nM.^rND^sSmit^nD.J.^rND^sSwart^nI.^rND^sWilkinson^nK.^rND^1A01^nAllan A.^sBoesak^rND^1A01^nAllan A.^sBoesak^rND^1A01^nAllan A^sBoesak



Testing the inescapable network of mutuality: Albert Luthuli, Martin Luther King Jr and the challenges of post-liberation South Africa



Allan A. Boesak

Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, 50 years ago on 04 April 1968, has been recalled in the United States with memorial services, conferences, public discussions and books. In contrast, the commemoration in 2017 of the death of Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, 50 years ago on December 1967, passed almost unremarked. That is to our detriment. Yet, these two Christian fighters for freedom, in different contexts, did not only have much in common, but they also left remarkably similar and equally inspiring legacies for South Africa, the United States and the world in the ways they lived their lives in complete faith commitment to ideals and ways of struggle that may guide us in the ongoing struggles to make the world a more just, peacable and humane place. For South African reflections on our ethical stance in the fierce, continuing struggles for justice, dignity and the authenticity of our democracy, I propose that these two leaders should be considered in tandem. We should learn from both. This article engages Martin Luther King Jr's belief in the 'inescapable network of mutuality', applies it to the struggle for freedom in South Africa and explores the ways in which South Africans can embrace these ethical ideals in facing the challenges of post-liberation.

Keywords: Black consciousness; Black struggle; Black churches; South Africa; United States; Albert Luthuli; Martin Luther King Jr.



A tent and a voice at midnight

The year was 1968, the year of my ordination as a 22-year-old in Immanuel Dutch Reformed Mission Church congregation in Paarl, South Africa, a town at the foot of the mountains nestled in the breathtakingly beautiful Winelands country of the Western Cape. My congregation was in turmoil, in the throes of forced removals as a result of apartheid laws: as it would everywhere, the Group Areas Act, the refinement of the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts had come to Paarl. It struck with its familiar, relentless cruelty. Most of the town had been declared a 'white' area. All those classified 'non-white' were forcibly removed to east of the river, had their homes confiscated or bulldozed, their sacred buildings desecrated: sold insultingly cheap - communities under this sword of Damocles had no power, nor the strength to negotiate with the inevitable - to be used for something more useful to white people, or razed to the ground. Families who had lived there for generations would hold out as long as they could. Finally, however, they would be moved, their communities and memories, their history and their dreams violently uprooted, sometimes eventually obliterated. All of a sudden the beauty of this place - a 'pearl' glittering in the Boland sunrise - would be forever scarred by the ugliness of apartheid from which there would be no escape anywhere. It was a time of great upheaval, turmoil and anger; a time in great need of the word of prophetic truth. I, however, was completely unprepared for the challenges of justice to my ministry.1

It was the year of the discovery of the total inadequacy of my theological training at my seminary where I was tutored by teachers from the white Dutch Reformed Church who believed in the theology of apartheid, white supremacy and the divine right of the Afrikaner, as God's chosen people, to lay claim to the land of my ancestors, the determination of my future, the content of my dignity and the definition of my freedom. It was the year of my final farewell to that bland but toxic mixture of Reformed theology, European pietism and Afrikaner Volksromantik, that utterly distorted version of the radical Calvinist tradition, what Martin Luther King Jr called 'a completely other-worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular'2 (King 2015b:142). This would be the year I discovered that my discontent with the world and the church (as it was then) could not grow any worse. King's powerful, rhythmic litany of 'divine dissatisfaction' with American apartheid would become mine with South African apartheid (King 2015d:178-179).

It is not as if I had not seen and experienced the devastating workings of the Group Areas Act before. The destruction of Cape Town's famed District Six and Johannesburg's Sophiatown and their communities was already becoming the stuff of legend. Somerset West, my hometown a scant hour away, was hit by those same laws and my family was one of thousands who had lost our home. So the anger, the sense of injustice and the frustration of not being able to do anything meaningful about it were not new. But I was not asked to stand in the pulpit preach about this particular evil in Somerset West, expected to offer both succour, comfort and the promise of justice from the Word of God to my people as I was in Paarl. In Somerset West I was a young person, angry at what was happening to my family, not yet fully seeing the wider implications of these events and not yet reading the signs of the times the way I would later. In Paarl I was a pastor who was called upon to speak to the angry and fear-filled hearts of my church, on behalf of all our people struck by this injustice, and in the name of the God of justice. This is just one of the many reasons why I have such complete understanding for the preachers of the Gospel and imams and pastors in occupied Palestine as they seek to serve their people engaged in the life and death struggles against the Israeli occupation, their brutalities of land-theft and war.

It was also the year of the publication of the South African Council of Churches' Message to the People of South Africa, the attempt by mainly white theologians to articulate the sinfulness of apartheid, following on the 1960 Cottesloe Declaration.3 But it was simultaneously the dawning of my understanding that in a situation of struggle, pain and suffering, commitment means, to quote Rev. Beyers Naudé, 'the time for pious words is over' (Naudé 1963:9).4 My pious words from the pulpit would not be enough, would not assuage the hunger and thirst for justice in those sitting in the pews, and would not suffice in the struggle against a system declared a crime against humanity, a sin, a heresy and a blasphemy.

In April of that year Martin Luther King Jr was murdered, and while the stunned grief that reverberated around the world echoed in black South Africa, in the pages of an Afrikaans Sunday paper they reported it with undisguised glee. I did not know him of course, but I knew of him. Clearly though, the apartheid regime did know him, and greatly feared him and his influence, especially over young, black South Africans in danger of discovering the power of faith in the revolutionary Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing could be read of or about King. His books, recordings of his sermons and speeches, everything he had said, were banned by the government: forbidden. Reading banned material was an offence against one or other of the vast array of draconian laws enacted by the apartheid regime. In this time, Rev. Dale White of the well-known Wilgespruit Conference Centre in Johannesburg, a preacher, activist and mentor to many from the Johannesburg townships, went on trial because, among other deeds considered seditious by the apartheid regime, he had disseminated a recording of a Martin Luther King speech.

In September of that year, I was leading the Bible study at the week-long spring camp for the Association of Christian Students. Among those forced to attend were some 300 young people from high schools across the country, the few teacher colleges and the one university person classified as 'mixed race'. At some point during that week, someone whispered in my ear and asked whether I wanted to listen to 'a secret tape'. It was a tape recording of Martin Luther King's sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, earlier that year, 'Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution' (Washington 1986:268-278),5 beginning with King's masterful retelling and application of the Rip van Winkle story. It was perhaps the same recording Rev. White was on trial for.

This article, firstly, discusses the impact of that concept on the generation that was to lead the struggle in its final phase against apartheid. It seeks to explore the meaning of those words for Martin Luther King Jr, his work and his life, and their impact on his growing understanding of its truth concerning worldwide struggles for freedom and justice. It seeks, secondly, to understand their meaning in the interconnectedness with Albert Luthuli, his Christian leadership in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. And thirdly, it will ask to what extent this concept has lessons to offer South Africans as we struggle to find the right ways towards genuine democracy in post-liberation South Africa, and in our relations with global struggles for justice.

Listening to that smuggled-in tape that night, I was struck with awe, not just by that voice, by the gripping, soaring rhetoric, or by what I would come to know as the rhythmic, mesmerising cadences of black Baptist preaching from America. I was moved by the prophetic unfolding of the story for us at that time - by the sheer power of the truth he spoke so plainly and fearlessly. I did not know him, did not understand American politics or the struggle for racial justice there - certainly not in the way I was beginning to understand more and more the dynamics of our own struggle - did not even know where precisely Washington, DC, was. Why then was I so moved, so stirred with anger, so compelled by the power of his words? Why was I so convinced that we, black South Africans and the black church in South Africa, were the ones sleeping through the great revolutions of our time, including our own? Why did I feel that I understood intuitively what black Americans were enduring, hoping and fighting for; that our struggles were intertwined, that the justice Martin King was talking about as the desire of God and his people was also the justice our people called for, in my church and right through South Africa? Why did I immediately understand that our thinking was too small, unworthy both of our situation, our calling, and our God; that we were so intent on the 'windows of opportunity' opened ever so slightly at the whim of the powerful and privileged that we did not even see the doors opened wide by the God of history?

It was not because of the rudimentary connections between the anti-apartheid struggle and the civil rights struggle that certainly did exist at the time but that we were mostly unaware of. I did not then know that in 1962 Martin Luther King Jr and Albert Luthuli had both signed the appeal to Western governments to isolate the apartheid regime through sanctions and divestment. And in this relationship there was a radicalisation in King that paralleled his radicalisation vis-à-vis the American situation. However, in 1958 King referred to the apartheid regime as a 'government who sponsors a more rigid program of segregation' (see Baldwin 2006:57); that polite language was gone by 1965.6 Nor did I know of Martin King's real admiration for our own Defiance Campaign of the 1950s and Luthuli's fearless leadership, inspired by his Christian faith. Lewis V. Baldwin, that great King scholar who has written more extensively than anyone on the relationship between Martin King and South Africa, informs us that King had addressed the problems of the oppressed in South Africa from the time he assumed the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptists Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in the mid-1950s (Baldwin 2006:54; see also Baldwin 1995). Baldwin also discloses the growing relationship of comradeship between Albert Luthuli and Martin King even though the two men never met. Their convictions, commitments and leadership acted as mutual inspiration (Baldwin 2006:58).7

King understood the interconnectivity, but he was not naive - he knew that South Africans were involved 'in the far more deadly struggle for freedom' (Baldwin, in Smith 66; also Baldwin 1995:45-46). It was because what Martin King said rang undeniably true: 'We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly'. And then, in words that years later I would recognise as echoes of Ubuntu, making the universal intensely personal and the personal intensely political, 'for some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be' (King 1986:269).8 It was the first time I had heard that expression. Suddenly my world was wider than apartheid-confined South Africa, the struggle became broader, deeper, more inclusive, more demanding, encompassing much, much more than the struggle against apartheid. It became international and multi-faceted. Many years later we would speak of 'global apartheid'.9

Later I would understand why there was such a strong spiritual kinship between Martin Luther King Jr and Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, the most remarkable Christian leader of the African National Congress in the 1950s, as I would come to understand the spiritual kinship between the civil rights struggle and the anti-apartheid struggle. I would also come to understand why, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Albert Luthuli would be the only person Martin King would quote by name (see King 1986:224-226). Their radical, combatant love for their people was grounded in their complete love for Jesus Christ. He was preaching in Washington, DC, but he was talking about, and to, all of us. On that day I, and as I would discover later, a large section of my generation, embraced Martin Luther King Jr, and even in this we were not the first, as we have already seen. From the moment Walter Sisulu appealed to King for solidarity (Baldwin, op. cit., in Smith 2006:55) and King's growing involvement with South Africa through the American Committee on Africa, this embrace was a reality.10 But for my generation it was an initial embrace. Martin, we ourselves, and that embrace would become much more complex, even as for me, it became more compelling (see Baldwin 2006:70-78). That embrace would deepen to more critical dimensions, and as Martin Luther King became more radicalised, our embrace would become the embrace of the radical King (see West 2015a). This process of radicalisation would show how serious Martin King was when he reminded his audience at the National Cathedral of the poet John Donne's famous words: 'Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. [sic] Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee'. Then he went to say, 'We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution' (King 1986:270). Martin King (1986) said one other thing that stirred me deeply, and which would become a guiding light for my activism in years to come:

Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. (p. 270)

At this 50th commemoration of his assassination, we inquire to what extent some of the fundamental truths Martin Luther King Jr has tried to teach coming generations are still relevant and what we can learn from those in our current, continuing struggles.


A decade of tumult

For South Africans, the 1960s was a decade of great tumult and deep disorientation. In Cape Town, but especially at Sharpeville, the people's courage was sledgehammered into the ground by apartheid's brutal power. The government banned the liberation movements, its leaders and its activists. Black political activity, such as survived, was driven into exile or underground. Leaders were imprisoned. Robben Island, long a symbol of banishment and resistance, became iconic. The vibrancy of Christian activism that had become a hallmark of the Defiance Campaign had been virtually abandoned. The prophetic church had lost its voice. Our world was shaken. What was left was Luthuli's yearning for its return:

It is my hope that what began, in the way of Christian involvement and thinking out, at the time of the Defiance Campaign, will not simply drain away, leaving Christians in despondency and impotence, adapting themselves fearfully to each new outrage, threat, and assault upon the people in our care. There is a witness to be borne, and God will not fail those who bear it fearlessly. (Luthuli [1960] 2006:132)

The young generation who towards the end of the decade and at the beginning of the 1970s embraced Black Consciousness and Black Theology, who rediscovered their power in the challenges of Black Power, and the young activists who in 1976 and from 1983 onwards took their faith, anger and hope into the streets of protest and the manifold ways of militant, non-violent resistance had heard him. And they did so with a depth of courage that will continue to amaze and shape history because like Luthuli, they knew, and experienced, that 'God will not fail those who bear it fearlessly'.

In 1948, apartheid became the official policy of South Africa. Unvarnished white supremacy was turned into the law of the land. But there were three remarkable things about apartheid that uniquely shaped our struggle.

Firstly, apartheid, even though a drastic modification of the segregation policies brought by colonialism, and a consequential historical development of slavery, was a direct result of the continued intervention and unceasing hard work of the white Dutch Reformed Church. In fact, as Rev. D.P. Botha argued persuasively some time ago, it was a political policy in many ways derived from and based on the mission policy of that church, in place since 1857 (Botha 1980:68-69). Hence, it was with complete justification that the official organ of the Dutch Reformed Church Die Kerkbode (1948), wrote in jubilation that the victory of the National Party at the polls that year was not just God's divine will, but asserted proudly that apartheid was 'a church policy' (Van der Westhuyzen 1948:664-665). Secondly, which was quite unique, also put in place was an elaborate, systematic theological construct, called the theology of apartheid, the biblical and moral justification of the policy, absolutely essential to the upholding of the policy and to the construction of the myth of white chosen-ness, white innocence and white divine right (see, e.g., Lombard 1981; Kinghorn 1986).

Thirdly, after 1948 the resistance from the majority of the population moved from what Nelson Mandela would later call 'constitutional protest' to open defiance. That gave rise to the non-violent campaigns of the 1950s known as the Defiance Campaign, and sporadically into the first months of 1960, challenging the unjust apartheid laws and practices with mass actions of civil disobedience until the brutal crackdowns of the regime forced an end to it all, at least for that time period. After the Defiance Campaign, other acts of non-violent resistance such as the 'Potato Boycott' of 1959 (Luthuli [1960] 2006:215-217) as well as the subsequent campaigns against the municipal beerhall system, the dipping tanks and especially the hated 'Pass Laws' (Luthuli [1960] 2006:215-217) had no institutional church support,11 but Christians participated in their thousands nonetheless, considering themselves part of a people's movement led by strong Christian leadership like Albert Luthuli and Robert Sobukwe. What we saw was the emergence of the prophetic church, what Martin Luther King called the 'inner, spiritual church, the church within the church, the true ekklesia and hope of the world' (King 2015b:142) and what South African pastor/activist Frank Chikane would refer to as 'the church of the streets'.12

As a result, and authenticating the truth preached more than a century ago already by Frederick Douglass (1857),13 followed by Albert Luthuli ([1960] 2006:124],14 and Martin Luther King (2015b:131)15 that the oppressor never surrenders power without a struggle, the 1960s also brought us the Sharpeville massacre, the consequent suppression of all black political activity, the banning and exile of black political leadership, the banning of the liberation movements, the Rivonia trial, following the Treason Trial of the 1950s, and the imprisonment of hundreds of activists and leaders, among them Nelson Mandela. In the aftermath of Sharpeville, in December 1961, the African National Congress took the decision to embark on military struggle, a decision which would cause deep divisions within the movement as well as between its most prominent leaders, Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela (Couper 2010:152-184; 235ff; also Boesak 2015:182-192). That decade also saw Mandela's capture, the Rivonia Trial and his imprisonment with many others. We would not see him for the next 27 years. Albert Luthuli died in 1967.16 Sharpeville was a defining moment for the apartheid regime, as it was a defining moment for the struggle.17 It also became a defining moment for the churches.

Although the white Dutch Reformed churches were in full support of apartheid, the white, moderate leadership of the multi-racial English-speaking churches responded with resolutions and statements, all the while seeking to calm the waters, calling for caution and warning against 'extremism' and violence 'from both sides'. In this too, we understood Martin Luther King Jr: we too saw a church:

more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice [white church leaders who] paternalistically believe they can set the agenda for another man's freedom (King 2015b:135)

What King says about 'moderate' white church leaders here is ipso facto true for liberal white South Africans, clerical and secular both, who found it hard to resist the temptation to set the agenda for black freedom.18

Chief Albert Luthuli's response to mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer, unsurprisingly similar to his response to white liberal church leaders, is a case in point. 'After a preliminary declaration of his understanding of the African point of view', Luthuli recalls, Oppenheimer 'took us to task over what he sees as the excessive nature of our demands and methods, 'such things as the demands for votes and the methods of public demonstration and boycott'. The 'extremism' of the oppressed masses 'made it difficult for him and others like him to persuade "liberal-minded people" of his own group of the justice of those demands' (2006:166). Luthuli (2006) relates that what was important for Mr Oppenheimer to understand, was that

however 'unpleasant' our demands might seem, they are real demands, and that it was far better that white South Africa should here and now know their nature than be constantly taken by surprise by being admitted to our thoughts instalment by instalment. (pp. 66-167)

Towards the end of the decade, Black Consciousness would embrace this same political suspicion and revolutionary impatience with 'the white liberal' who simply could not conceive of black people's agency in shaping the agenda and pace of their own struggle for freedom, who were always afraid of black 'excessiveness' in our demands and disapproving of black people's desire to define their own freedom. White liberals are so engrossed in their prejudices, writes Biko (1975:59-62), that they cannot believe that black people can formulate their own thoughts without white curatorship.19

What we desperately needed in fact was not the cautionary cowardice of white paternalism, nor the endless patience, resignation and pseudo-innocent complicity of black conformism, but the 'maladjustment' (King's term), of the 8th-century prophets of the Hebrew Bible in their unremitting challenge to the powers of oppression and injustice and their prophetic faithfulness and the extremism of Jesus in his outrage at injustice in his love for justice. So the question always is, King argued, not whether we should be extremists, but rather what kind of extremists we should be (King 2015b:138). What we needed was a church who understood the radical demands of the Gospel, the interrelatedness of life and the indivisibility of justice. A church that understood that there was a revolution going on in the world - in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the United States and South Africa. But the decade of the 1960s also saw the silencing of the prophetic church in South Africa. And, like Luthuli, we should be 'quite extreme on this point', and like Luthuli, not be afraid to say it (Luthuli [1960] 2006:132).

When Martin King called for the United States, and for all people of good will to 'get on the right side of that revolution' because 'the great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and their lands They are awake and moving toward their goal like a tidal wave ' (King 1967b:170), he was also talking about us as well as to us. Those 'shirtless and bare-footed masses' of the world were us. Referring to this 'tidal wave' of revolutionary change as the 'continuing story' for freedom from the time of the exodus, he said, 'Something within has reminded the Negro of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained' (King 1967b:170)

But if African Americans should see God at work in history, and be reminded of their birthright by the struggles for freedom and justice in Africa, Asia and Latin America, should we, conversely, also not see God at work in the civil rights struggle in the United States, and should not we be reminded of our birthright because of their struggle? Is 'the network of mutuality' not also networks of unbreakable solidarity and revolutionary reciprocity? And is the 'single garment of destiny' not our common destiny of peace, freedom and human dignity? And is the human dignity we seek not also for the whole human community, including our oppressors, not just for ourselves alone? (see Boesak 2017:147-168). The answer, it seems to me, is a clear 'yes'. The interconnectedness, the network of mutuality, is also more than politics. It is fundamental to our common humanity, to our obligation to restore to the world a human face.

But here is something remarkable. Although the prophetic church in South Africa was driven underground, silenced by suppression, the banning, imprisonment, fear and the killing of its prophets - a time in which the 'Word of God was scarce' (1 Sam 3), a time of crisis and testing for prophetic faithfulness - God allowed a new generation to hear the Word from another part of the world. The prophetic church in the United States was not silenced, had in fact begun to gain a new strength and a new urgency, driven by new insights into the crises of their own society and our world. At a time when Martin Luther King Jr was maturing into greater, deeper, more radical wisdom, seeing with clearer eyes the indivisibility of God's justice, the oneness of God's world, the inescapable network of mutuality and the single garment of destiny, this is the time this message - a secretly smuggled tape recording - comes to awaken the prophetic church in South Africa, reminding us of the way in which the prophetic church in South Africa had inspired the black people struggle for freedom in America. This is no coincidence, but the way the Spirit of God works to keep God's work of liberation and hope alive in the world.


Understanding the solidarity of struggle

The most remarkable thing about Rip van Winkle, Martin King pointed out, was not that he slept for 20 years, but that he slept through a revolution. That was certainly true of the church of my generation, and of us, the children of that generation. It took Martin King's words to help wake us up. We embraced Martin Luther King because he awakened us to the fact that we too have been in a struggle, but like Rip van Winkle, my generation has been asleep while momentous events were occurring in Africa and around the world. We were asleep in another aspect as well. In our many urgent discussions, debates and engagements with each other about the unfolding struggle and our role in it, we discovered that those of us calling ourselves Christian activists have mostly been dealing with effects, rather than with causes. We were dealing mostly with the effects of racism, the effects of poverty, the effects of disenfranchisement. It was time to wake up, understand and engage the causes.

So towards the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, with the coming of the Black Consciousness movement and the courageous and impeccable leadership of Stephen Bantu Biko, we began to think about the deepest roots of white supremacy and racism; the causes of powerless and the meaning, use and abuse of power; the systems of economic exploitation and the systems of domination rampant in the world. We began to think how these systems work nationally and globally, our subjection to them, our compliance with them and our complicity in them. We began to understand better how white racism, as a particular South African phenomenon, was entrenched in white supremacy and white privilege globally and how these functioned as manifestations of white power, hand in hand with social engineering, economic exploitation and political oppression.

In 1963, in the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr uses the phrase 'the white power structure' only once, almost as a casual afterthought, and confined to the city of Birmingham. Later, towards the end, he would use that phrase much more thoughtfully, much more systemically, much more globally. We came to understand that phrase, its reality and its consequences for South Africa and for the world we live in. It also indicated a radicalisation in King's thinking that would grow in maturity and effectiveness in his ongoing engagement with power structures in the United States, and as the United States exerted its power across the world, though he would not come to recognise it explicitly as the power exerted by empire.

We took Martin King seriously too, when he spoke of his distinction between constitutional rights and what he called 'God-given' rights. We understood him to mean that he understood that while the United States had a constitution, that same constitution saw black people as 3/5ths of a human being, therefore not guaranteeing the human rights, the God-given rights, of black people. In that constitution equality was mentioned, but selectively applied; freedom was a word but not a reality; dignity was not even mentioned. So it was necessary to appeal to something that came from 'beyond the dim mist of eternity', that no document from human hands could deny, redefine, change or diminish. Yet, time after time, Martin King would appeal to that constitution, in an effort to find common ground with what white America would consider the proud foundation of their democracy, for them the 'greatest in the world'.20

In South Africa, in contrast, we had no constitutional democracy. The constitution was a racist, apartheid constitution. There could not even be the pretence of appealing to the constitution, but following Martin, we appealed to our God-given rights. Not just the right to freedom, but the right to freedom that guaranteed and protected dignity; not just the right to vote but the right to have a voice; not the right to pursue individual happiness but the right to secure the common good in the name of our shared humanity. We fought for the right not to go hungry; not to be exploited, not to be exiled at will; the right to shelter, the right to have choices, the right to hope and work for a better, more humane, more just world. It is this understanding, fashioned in the vortex of struggle, burnished in the flames of hope and moulded on the anvil of sacrifice that informed the values of South Africa's struggle and its current Constitution, one of the most progressive documents in the world with the exception of our flawed private property clause.21

In the deepening dimensions of our struggle, we came to realise that for Martin 'the network of mutuality' was not just a geographical inescapability, but an embraced, qualitative inclusivity. Hence, it was quite natural for us, in the writing of the Belhar Confession,22 to insist upon God as first and foremost the God of compassionate justice 'the One who wants to bring about justice and true peace on earth'. For that reason, Belhar urges the church 'to stand where God stands', to 'witness and strive against any form of injustice', so that for everyone who is despised, rejected, wronged, destitute, excluded or discriminated against 'justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream'. Hence also the firmness of the rejection, as it is in the affirmation: 'Therefore, we reject any ideology which legitimates any form of injustice'. The 'inescapable network of mutuality' that included black people as well as white people, African Americans as well as oppressed people across the world, poor white people, poor black people, poor Latinos from all parts of America, as he was recruiting for the 'Poor People's March', would have had to include women and LGBTQI+ persons, who were also an inextricable part of the 'single garment of destiny'. Following Martin King's (radicalising) logic, such a conclusion is entirely plausible.23 Because without them our humanity would never be complete. We would, as he himself understood full well, never be what we ought to be, unless they are what they ought to be. It was, for me, an extraordinarily liberatory understanding (Boesak 2015:112-117).


The road to freedom

We listened and agreed because we knew it to be true, when Martin King told us that 'freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed'. From our own history we understood that freedom is always the fruit of struggle and pain and sacrifice. We recognised it because King echoed the words of our own Albert Luthuli who taught us that 'the road to freedom is via the CROSS' (Luthuli [1960] 2006:232-236) and Nelson Mandela, like Luthuli before him, testified that the ideals of the struggle are ideals we should live for, and if necessary, be ready to die for.24 Frederick Douglass, over 160 years ago, saw it well:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.25

So when our time came and we recognised God's kairos for our generation, we asked God to forgive our complicity and our cowardice and we embraced the radical demands of the Gospel, for ourselves and for our struggle. But because Martin King convinced us that struggle without love is freedom held captive, we tried, under the most difficult circumstances, to remember that liberating the oppressor is our historic obligation, and that the ubuntufication of the world is integral to the call for justice.26

It is for that reason that in the final analysis black South Africans, in our choice for reconciliation and reconciled diversity, chose political justice rather than victim's justice; distributive justice rather than retributive justice; justice for the living rather than revenge for the dead; a reconciled future rather than an unforgiven past; a shared hopefulness rather than a negotiated despair.27

When Martin spoke of the power of non-violence he reminded us of our own struggle, and how we, under pressure of the violence and intransigence of the oppressor, chose the road to violence, in the process becoming more like the oppressor than we had wanted to be or could foresee that we would. We remembered then that Luthuli told us that we should not succumb to the oppressor's invitation to desperation, and that he warned us not to give up the militant, non-violent struggle. And so, returning to and leaning upon the wisdom of Albert Luthuli, it was possible for a new generation, after the quiet despair of the 1960s, even while understanding the choices Nelson Mandela and his generation thought they should make in their time, to return to those methods in the 1970s and 1980s and build a movement of non-violent resistance that would ultimately break apartheid's back (see Boesak 2009).

Never losing sight of the agonising circumstances that forced our elders to make that decision, we nonetheless could define and defend our own stance: violence destroys the chances of peace and reconciliation in the irreversible destruction of the other. It casts the other in the mould of an unchangeable, incontrovertible enemy. It systematises as well as depersonalises the enemy. After the violent blow is struck, there are no more options left and the last word is already drowned in blood. Violence takes on a life of its own, feeds on human emotions far stronger than we realise, releases a relentless, deadly dynamic we are first not prone, then not able, to stop. It sweeps treason and better judgement aside as in ritualistic helplessness not acknowledgeable to ourselves we respond to the call of blood to blood. Lifting the sword destroys the soul. Non-violence appeals to our better selves, to the truth we know about ourselves as well as the other, but too often deny: that in our creaturely, relational existence and our common humanity we are created to affirm, choose and celebrate life rather than death. Non-violence affirms the humble acknowledgement of the possibility that we might be wrong, that the other is not just pure evil. It opens the way for the choosing of another path, to the ubuntufication of the other, because it longs for the affirmation of our humanity in the humanity of the other. Violence, in its irreversibility, is a reach too far for mortals such as us. Non-violence acknowledges the existence of holy ground: such as taking the life of another. We dare not tread upon it.28


Radicalisation and domestication

Across the world, whenever the name Martin Luther King Jr is mentioned, it is inevitably in conjunction with his famous Washington, DC, march 'I Have a Dream' speech.29 But let me confess: the Martin Luther King Jr whom the generation of young struggle activists embraced is the Martin of 1966, 1967 and 1968 rather than the Martin of 1963. The global citizen who recognised the global challenges of racism, poverty and war rather than the King who remained enchanted by the American dream. That King had become America's favoured son, stripped of his radicality, domesticated in dozens of presidential speeches - from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Barack Obama - about his life on his birthday, his dream so hopelessly American that it is being claimed by the far right without a blush.30 Our embrace was of the King who, by 1966, had discovered that it was not at all about a seat at a lunch counter, but all about systemic justice; not so much about integration as about dignity and equality, and even then with the question attached: What kind of equality in what kind of society? Hence, his emphasis not so much on integration any more, but on the creation of a beloved community whose yardstick was justice to the poor and most vulnerable.

But as a result, the Martin we embraced saw the triple evils of racism, militarism and capitalist exploitation. That Martin embraced the political and economic potential of democratic socialism. That was the Martin who saw perpetual impoverishment as a critique of capitalism rather than as a mere by-product of racism; the Martin who mused that America should find a different economic system. 'There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism' (Dyson 2000:88).31

We were captivated by the Martin King who observed and understood the revolutions that engulfed the world in his times, not because the people involved were simply prone to violence, but because they were, he said, 'revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression', the Martin King who could now see, and identify with the 'shirtless and barefoot people of the land [who] are rising up as never before' (King 1967a:33). This is a radicalised Martin whose choice of words echo both Franz Fanon's 'wretched of the earth' and the Hebrew Bible's am ha'aretz, the people of the land, the poor and powerless peasants of Judea and Galilee who had so often revolted against their Roman imperial overlords.

That Martin who, in reference to the war in Vietnam, saw even then what would be and would remain, even more so today, 'the deepest malady within the American spirit': that war is poisonous to the soul of a nation, and that '[America] can never be saved as long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men [and women and children] the world over' (King 2015c:204).32

But I am afraid that means that the Martin that we embraced is the Martin Luther King America has so devoutly and effectively domesticated and so determinedly watered down; the Martin America wants so feverishly to forget (Dyson 2000; Burrows & Baldwin 2015; West 2015). For far too many in the rest of the world as well it is the Martin least remembered, least celebrated, least honoured. It is disturbing to see how much effort is going into creating a Martin Luther King more manageable, a prophet more palatable, a leader more pliable, a preacher more controllable.

But one, crucially important reason why, despite its undeniable beauty and soaring rhetorical heights, black South Africans of my generation were (and are) less drawn to the 'I have a dream' speech is not just because it has been so abominably abused over the last 50 years, almost made devoid of meaning. It is also because for us, people of the global South, the American dream is such a threatening, frightening thing. Malcolm X had persistently referred to the 'American Dream' as the 'American Nightmare' for African Americans (Malcolm X, ed. Breitman 1965:26)33 and by 1967 Martin King would concur. Referring to his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he confessed, 'I talked to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing that dream turn into a nightmare' (King 1968:75-76). Malcolm X was clear on this matter from the very beginning, but for perhaps too long Martin King held on to the myth that freedom for black people is ultimately secured because of America's inherent commitment to freedom. In consequence, and in light of the disappointment Barack Obama turned out to be, and the shameless racist bigotry and fascist tendencies of Donald Trump, it is not unfair to ask of African American brothers and sisters: Is at the core of the dilemma you face not perhaps the idea you have embraced from Martin's days up to now, that your freedom is, as Martin put it, 'the goal of America', and that your destiny is 'tied up in the destiny of America'? (King 2015b:142), and 'We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands' (King 1986:277; King 2015b:143).34

What if, we might ask, with humility and some trepidation, but nonetheless with love and as honestly as we can, the destiny of America is indistinguishable from America's 'manifest destiny', which is based upon invasion, exclusion, expansionism, exploitation, genocide and imperial domination the world over?

What if the American dream can only be upheld and realised by perpetual war not in service of freedom or democracy but in service to greed and the pursuit of profits?

What if the pursuit of the American dream has become the unbearable nightmare of those of us in the rest of the world where the name America does not conjure up 'sweet dreams of liberty' but night sweats drenched in terror, displacement and pain, and filled with images of such things as 'extraordinary rendition' and torture, perpetual war and endless occupation, cluster bombs, drones computerised death and the very real threat of nuclear destruction?

What if we admit that Barack Obama's famous chant, 'Yes, we can!' has migrated from an inspiring, hope-giving slogan to a fearsome expression of brute power: 'We exploit, attack, wage war, main and kill, "because we can!?"' as President Obama, shaking our dreams of renewed hopeful politics to the core, has so consistently, and devastatingly, shown throughout his term in office? (see Boesak 2015:90-122).

What if the American dream is no longer, perhaps never has been, the dream of a hopeful, compassionate people driven by the love for justice but the agenda of a heartless empire held captive by an outrageous, dehumanising, God-defying ambition for world domination? What if the American dream is not really a glittering vision 'from sea to shining sea' but the darkness of systemic executions from coast to coast of people of mixed race by militarised police, who, from Sanford, FL, to Ferguson, MO, to Standing Rock, ND, are, for this South African, a disorienting and frightening mirror image of the South African apartheid security forces? What if the shining 'city on a hill' has become inner cities of poverty, oppression and dispossession; of black neighbourhoods under siege, and white suburbs imprisoned by ignorance? What if the words of the American dream are no longer 'America the beautiful' but the lyrics of a nightmare: 'Don't shoot, I don't have a gun'; or 'please, don't let me die'; or 'I can't breathe'?

If Martin Luther King Jr were alive today, standing not in Selma, AL, but in Ferguson, MO; not in Birmingham, AL, but in New York City and Staten Island; not in Montgomery, AL, but in Standing Rock, ND; not in Chicago but poverty-stricken Thembisa and Khayelitsha; not in Selma, AL, but in gang-infested Bonteheuwel or Bishop Lavis, Cape Town, and the sprawling miasma of misery that we call 'squatter camps' or, more euphemistically, 'informal settlements?' What would those compassionate eyes see; what would that heart filled with revolutionary love for Christ and the world yearn for; what would that mind set on freedom think; what would that prophetic tongue say; what would those feet, restless for justice, do?

The lessons from the life, commitment, courage and power are far from fully learnt. Much remains. The Martin we learned to love and embraced is the Marin who taught us to stand up for justice and make those vital choices, his voice soaring in the National Cathedral:

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is politic? Vanity comes along and asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? (King 1986:277)

King (1986) concludes:

There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe, nor politic nor popular; but [we] must do it because conscience tells [us] that it is right. (p. 277)

These are the penetrating questions that South Africans, in our restless and as yet unfulfilled search for an open, non-racial, non-sexist, people-centred, humane democracy, cannot avoid. As, in this time of resurging racism, tribalism and ethnocentrism, of all-consuming self-interest and self-destructive entitlement, we cannot avoid the question of loyalties. 'Our loyalties must extend our race', Martin King said, because he understood the necessity of genuine non-racialism. 'We deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism' because he understood the essential oneness of our world and the call towards a common humanity. As a consequence, even if it meant speaking out against the leaders and politics of his own nation, he had to speak out 'for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers [and sisters]' (King 2015c:206). It is as if King had read and understood John Calvin clearly who insisted that:

the name 'neighbour' extends indiscriminately to every person, because the whole human race is united by a sacred bond of fellowship To make any person my neighbor it is enough that they be human. (Calvin, Opera, 45, 613, [italics added])

South Africa's Beyers Naudé understood King, as he understood the crucial nature of the distinction between what he called 'loyalties and lesser loyalties', the courage it would take to make that decision, and the courage it would take to sustain it:

In the Afrikaner society there is such a deep sense of loyalty Loyalty to your people, loyalty to your country, loyalty and patriotism have in a certain sense become deeply religious values So that anybody who is seen to be disloyal to his nation, to his people, is not only deemed to be a traitor, but in the deeper sense of the word, he is seen as betraying God. (Naudé & Sölle 1986:11)

I have written extensively about the choices Beyers Naudé had decided to make, but it is worthwhile repeating the gist of it here (Boesak 2015:85-90). It is because he understood the totalitarian nature of that loyalty and its demands that he understood so well its consequences, and the choices it presented. A choice for those loyalties would be in direct opposition to the choices for Christ he had made. For that very reason he was always so clear on the demand for Christian obedience and loyalty to Christ above all, and the extent to which loyalty to Christ alone would make one understand the place of 'lesser loyalties', and how these lesser loyalties not just competed with one's loyalty to Christ, but in fact displaced it. It was especially dangerous because the 'lesser loyalties' claimed to be of God, and resisting them was presented as tantamount to resisting God. Then 'lesser loyalties' actually become 'false loyalties'. It is this combination of courage and conscience, of insight and foresight that enabled Beyers Naudé to see earlier and more clearly than others the deep and complex roots of the heresy of apartheid. It was not just the formal theological and biblical justification. It was as well, and dangerously so, the informal, insidious and all-pervasive cultural embodiment of a false, deceitful, carefully inculcated consciousness that presented itself as loyalty, and as Christian.

South Africans are once more faced with the vexing question of loyalty - to race or ethnic grouping, to tribe and class, to historical truth or self-serving myths; to gender justice and equality or patriarchal privilege and power; to the interests of the country or to the interests of the Party, the rightful demands of the people or the benefits of patronage. Beyers Naudé had learnt from both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, as he had learnt from Steve Biko.35 It is once again time to make those choices. We are indeed caught up in this 'inescapable network of mutuality', in this 'single garment of destiny'.

The Martin we embrace is the Martin who taught us the power of love as the most potent force in human relationships as well as in politics:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. The chain of evil must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. (King 1963a:53)

The Martin we love and embraced is the Martin who taught the world that hope is indispensable:

God grant that we will be participants in the newness (that God is creating) If we will but do it, we will bring about a new day of brotherhood [and sisterhood] and peace. And that day the morning stars will sing together and the children of God will shout for joy. (King, in Washington 278)

We embraced Martin Luther King Jr because he embraced our own Albert Luthuli, one of the most inspiring examples of Christian commitment to the struggles for freedom and justice the world over, and who today, above the desperate denials at the sickbed of our rainbow nation dreams, still speaks to his people, urging us to discard the destructive politics of illusion, and instead invest ourselves in the uplifting politics of hope and commitment:

The task is not yet finished. South Africa is not yet a home for all her sons and daughters. Such a home we wish to ensure. From the beginning our history has been one of ascending unities, the breaking of tribal, racial, and creedal barriers. The past cannot hope to have a life sustained by itself, wrenched from the whole. There remains before us the building of a new land, a home for [people] who are black, white, brown, from the ruins of the old narrow groups, a synthesis of the rich cultural strains which we have inherited Somewhere ahead there beckons a civilisation, a culture, which will take its place in the parade of God's history beside other great human syntheses, Chinese, Egyptian, Jewish, European. It will not be necessarily all black, but it will be African. (Luthuli [1960] 2006:230)

Such is the power of the networks of mutuality. These are the witnesses to prophetic truth, prophetic faithfulness and prophetic courage recognisable in all movements across the world dedicated to the subversion of systems of injustice, domination and subjugation; to freedom and the militant, non-violent transformation of societies; to the protection of life upon the Earth. Such lessons we have scarcely begun to understand, it seems to me, but they are nonetheless indispensable for a life of dignity, peacability and human flourishing, and for a democracy that is inclusive, humane, durable and sustainable.



Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.



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Allan Boesak

Received: 24 Oct. 2018
Accepted: 17 Feb. 2019
Published: 25 July 2019



1. There is yet another side to this story, a powerful encounter with an older woman in the church, her exposure of my inadequacies and her challenge to and encouragement in my ministry (see Boesak 2009:33-34).
2. In truth, this process had already begun in earnest with my introduction to Rev. Beyers Naudé in 1965, and his careful explanation of the pivotal importance of the need for moral, biblical and theological justification of apartheid in the ideology and practice of that system especially for those in the Afrikaner community for whom it was so vitally important to have 'God on their side'. But the difference in understanding this intellectually and using that knowledge in one's ministry, preaching and activism was considerable.
3. For a more detailed discussion of the Cottesloe Declaration from a black point of view, see Allan Aubrey Boesak (2015:76-82). The Message was a brave theological document identifying apartheid as a 'novel gospel' and calling upon Christians to choose the way of obedience to God rather than human beings, but lacked completely the urgency of involvement in the struggle, of having taken sides in the struggle, even of an awareness that a struggle was going on, of black Christians' wrestling to connect their faith to that struggle, or that the choice for 'obedience to God' actually meant commitment to and participation in that struggle as the critical dimensions of one's faith such as Albert Luthuli showed by example throughout his life.
4. These words are from a key sentence in a crucially important article in which Naudé defends his decision to openly support the World Council of Churches' Program to Combat Racism and its Special Fund that provided financial support to Southern African liberation movements. The article, significantly titled 'The Parting of the Ways' (Pro Veritate, October, 1970), signals the intensifying of the tensions between Naudé and the white population of South Africa, Afrikaans and English-speaking alike, as Naude's solidarity with the freedom struggle signified more and more personal commitment and involvement (see Boesak 2015, chapter 3, especially 75-82.
5. This was a recording of the sermon Dr King preached at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, which was to be his last full Sunday sermon before his death 4 days later, see For the text of the sermon, see Washington (1986:268-278). King makes references to this story in several speeches and sermons before this final delivery (see, e.g., King 1967:170-171).
6. King's awareness of the interconnectivity and interdependence of our struggles would grow as his commitment to both would deepen. See Martin Luther King Jr, 'Let My People Go', a speech given on 10 December 1965 in support of the anti-apartheid struggle (King 2015d:107-112). His powerful opening sentences set the tone for the judgement on apartheid, its leaders and beneficiaries, and the call for non-violent, militant resistance on an international scale: 'Africa does have spectacular savages and brutes today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa who profess to be cultured, religious and civilised, but whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern-day barbarians' (p. 107).
7. In response to a report from King's friend, G. McLeod Bryan, who visited Luthuli, then under a banning order in South Africa, conveying to King Luthuli's admiration for his work and appreciation for his book Stride Toward Freedom, King wrote back to Luthuli: May I say that I, too, admired you tremendously from a distance.
But I admire your great dedication to the cause of freedom and dignity. You have stood amid persecution, abuse, and oppression with a dignity and calmness of spirit seldom paralleled in human history. One day all of Africa will be proud of your achievement (Baldwin in Smith 2006:58).
8. This is also argued to great effect in his 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail', but King would make this point persuasively in a variety of contexts. Clearly, it is a truth he held dearly and wanted to imprint upon his audiences and followers at every opportunity.
9. According to South African economics scholar, Patrick Bond, this very appropriate term was first introduced by former president Thabo Mbeki at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002, see Patrick Bond (2004:817-839).
10. For King's role within the US Anti-Apartheid Coalition, see Baldwin, op. cit., in Smith 2006:54-69.
11. Albert Luthuli, lamenting the hesitation of the churches regarding the Defiance Campaign and the escalating repression from the apartheid regime, wrote: What did the churches do about this? Except for the lone stand made by Bishop Reeves, who refused to hire church buildings out for the Verwoerd secular education for serfdom, almost nothing (Luthuli [1960] 2006:131).
His critique is scathing. He speaks of 'the wreck of [prophetic] Christian witness', and what he fears was a 'slow drift into a Nationalist state religion' (p. 132).
12. In contrast, because the black church in the United States was an institution owned and run by African Americans, and had such a strong history of prophetic leadership in the struggle against slavery and racial oppression in the United States, the civil rights movement had considerable support among laypersons as well as clergy, even though it has to be said that even there it was not the black church as a whole that supported the struggle. The degree of resistance to Martin King's leadership, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the struggle, in general, from many church leaders, their churches or representative bodies was astonishing and shameful. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that without the prophetic black church in the United States there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr, and no civil rights struggle (see, e.g., Baldwin, 2006:59).
13. 'Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will
14. 'Our struggle is a struggle and not a game - we cannot allow ourselves to be daunted by a harshness which will grow before it subsides. We shall not win our freedom except at the cost of great suffering, and we must be prepared to accept it. Much African blood has already been spilt, and assuredly more will be
We do not desire to shed the blood of the white man, but we should have no illusion about the price he will exact in African blood before we are admitted to citizenship in our own land.'
15. 'Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups never give up their privileges voluntarily.
We know through painful experience that freedomis never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed'.
16. To this day the unease surrounding his death, whether he really 'got lost', wandered towards the railway lines and was killed accidentally by a train, refuses to come to rest.
17. In the same way, I argued elsewhere, the Marikana massacre of 2014 has become a redefining moment for the ANC, it will continue to have far-reaching consequences for the ANC as a political movement and its political and moral leadership in politics in South Africa (see Boesak 2014:6-10).
18. The language and argumentation in the section on 'Church Theology', and the subsections 'reconciliation', and 'violence' in the South African Kairos Document would reflect these viewpoints quite powerfully.
19. 'In this way even whites, who admit the many faults in the system, are keen to correct the response of Blacks to the provocations [of that system]' (p. 60).
20. It was an inherently contradictory appeal however, and not sustainable, but King clung to it because like Frederick Douglass before him, he believed that the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of all Americans, not just white people. The Constitution did not sanctify racism, they believed, but rather revealed the utter hypocrisy of white Americans, and calling them on it was the moral responsibility of black people. Malcolm X, of course, held the opposite view (see Cone 1991: Introduction).
21. As I write, the debates on the amendment to the Constitution to change this clause to allow land restitution without economic compensation are raging across the country. It may have been unnecessarily postponed for 25 years, but it is not too late and absolutely imperative to make our reconciliation process credible, durable and sustainable.
22. The full text of the Belhar Confession is available at
23. See the convincing case made by Traci C. West on this issue, 'Gay Rights and the Misuse of Martin' (Baldwin & Burrows 2013:141-156).
24. See Nelson Mandela's speech from the Dock, 'I am Prepared to Die',
25. See Frederick Douglass, 'If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress', a 'West India Emancipation' speech delivered at Canandaigua, New York, 03 August 1857,
26. Perhaps Cornel West put it best in his description of 'the radical King': 'The radical King was first and foremost a revolutionary Christian
whose intellectual genius and rhetorical power was deployed in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. King understood this good news to be primarily radical love in freedom and radical freedom in love, a fallible enactment of the Beloved Community or finite embodiment of the Kingdom of God' (West 2015: Introduction, xv).
27. That South Africans have in fact not realised justice for the living in our reconciliation process to make that 'shared future' possible, durable and sustainable remains the challenge for this generation (see Allan Aubrey Boesak & Curtiss Paul DeYoung 2012; see also Boesak 2017, especially chapters 4, 5, 6).
28. This view did not remain uncontested of course, and the debate raged throughout the 1980s, but there is no gainsay that it was embraced by the vast majority during those final phases of the struggle and held its ground as the bedrock of their belief and their participation the struggle. Honest appraisals of the situation in the 1980s will confirm that the violence in the streets was almost always provoked violence, within the broader framework of counter-violence to the inherent violence of apartheid. But this view on violence and non-violence remains my own firm conviction, even more so in a world drenched in blood through perpetual, needless, global war.
29. Martin King in full flight is on the cover of a book titled, Speeches that Changed the World, reprinted twice, among 49 great historical figures beginning with Jesus of Nazareth (the Sermon on the Mount). Abraham Lincoln has only one, King has two, the 'I Have a Dream' speech, and his last address on the eve of his assassination in Memphis on 03 April 1968, 'I Have Seen the Promised Land'.
30. Probably the worst examples of the domestication and abuse of Martin Luther King can be seen in the way Americans from the far right have been shamelessly using him to defend their racist stances (e.g. right-wing Foxnews TV personality Glenn Beck), their resistance against affirmative action, a dignified minimum wage, and gender justice issues. Even worse is the abuse of Martin King in defence of America's war policies. Baldwin and Burrows use the publications of Clarence B Jones, a one-time King advisor turned rabid conservative Republican who argues that Martin King would have supported George W. Bush in his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and his war policies in The Middle East (see Baldwin & Burrows 2013:29-54; Jones 2011; Jones & Engel 2008). 'Indeed', writes Michael Eric Dyson, 'conservatives must be applauded